Terri and I were driving out of Charlotte last Friday night on U.S. 74 East. We were heading home from Charlotte toward Monroe, after visiting friends. With all the Charlotte traffic, that stretch of highway has never been an easy drive. But since it was around 9 PM, I thought it wouldn’t be that bad. I was wrong.
There was major road construction going on. (There’s always major road construction going on in Charlotte.) Traffic was backed up, with travel down to one lane going in each direction. I said to Terri, “Imagine what this must be like during rush hour!” And we complain about traffic backing up some on Sunset Avenue here in Clinton!
The widening of N.C. 24 from two to four lanes between Clinton and Fayetteville had been talked about for years and years. Those of us who have traveled the highway know how much it has been needed, and how much it has been needed to help in the prosperity and future of Sampson County.
Finally, in late 2013, construction started. (Yes, it’s been going on that long.) Construction of the highway has gone well. Well, at least on the western part of the construction, from Roseboro to Maxwell Road in Cumberland County, which was contracted by Barnhill Construction Company. That part was finished earlier this year, making that drive much easier. (Although the way the intersection at Maxwell Road was done is taking some getting used to.)
As far as for the rest of the project, from Roseboro to Clinton, that’s quite a different story. The Fred Smith Company was awarded the contract for the sixteen miles of road construction. The scheduled completion date for the project was originally set for November 2017. I think it is obvious, here in December 2017, that that timeline wasn’t met. There were some additions to the contract, like a bridge over NC 242 in Roseboro, but you would think that construction would still be much further along. Later, completion date was set for March, 2018. Now, we hear that the project is hoped to be completed by early 2019.
The Fred Smith Company bought out C.C. Mangum Company, a Raleigh-based highway contractor, in 2010. Fred Smith, a former state Senator, ran as a Republican for governor in North Carolina in 2008. He lost in the Republican primary to Charlotte mayor, Pat McCrory. Smith then endorsed McCrory. McCroy lost in 2008, but won in 2012. In 2013, Governor McCrory appointed Smith to the North Carolina Economic Development Board. That same year, in 2013, The Fred Smith Company was awarded the large contract for their part of the NC 24 widening project by the NCDOT. (You do the math.)
I did notice one thing as we creeped along U.S. 74 East coming out of Charlotte last Friday night. There were folks out there working, running machinery, moving those orange barrels, and other construction work. At 9 PM on a Friday night! And that also made me think about the highway construction on Sunset Avenue in Clinton, and Highway 24 between Clinton and Roseboro.
Over the past years, how many times have you seen construction being done on the project at night? How many times have you seen any construction being done on the weekend? How many days have you driven through the construction zone and seen absolutely no work being done anywhere? Even in perfect weather? There has often seemed to be no urgency by the Fred Smith Company to complete the project.
Thank goodness, we here in Sampson County, don’t have to deal with the traffic and road construction, like they have to in Charlotte on a daily basis. I have been told when the road widening in Clinton and on Hwy 24 is completed, it will be worth the aggravation. Okay, that sounds good. And I know it’s not as bad as Charlotte. But how about speeding it up a little.
Reach Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at email@example.com.