Even as another segment of the N.C. 24 improvements gets the go-ahead, City of Clinton leaders are urging the state to move forward with the last remaining unfunded portion of the highway between Clinton and Warsaw.
The resolution in support of completing the widening of N.C. 24 from Clinton to Interstate 40 was adopted unanimously during the City Council’s recent meeting, tacked on at the end of the session as a walk-on item. The announcement of the additional funding for N.C. 24 came a week earlier, at the end of February, and Council members encouraged that work to continue.
Councilman Steve Stefanovich said Sampson’s Transportation Advisory Group was formed with the specific purpose of getting the state’s attention in regard to needed road funding. For years, N.C. 24 has been at the top of that list.
“The primary focus for the last couple years has been Highway 24 (widening) linking up with I-40,” said Stefanovich. “They have this section funded and they have been working on it. There are two more sections that need to be funded between Faircloth Freeway (U.S. 421/701) and Interstate 40, of which we were informed (Feb. 23) they funded one more section.”
The initial N.C. 24 project proposed a four-lane roadway stretching for approximately 40 miles, from Cumberland County to I-40 near Warsaw, however just two-thirds of the project — four of six segments — was funded, with construction to be cut off halfway through Sampson. The last two segments were unfunded, with 2030 set as the target date for their completion.
But late last week, a fifth segment was approved for funding. DOT now plans to complete the widening of N.C. 24 to four lanes for all but a 6-mile gap between Clinton and I-40.
“That will leave us 6 miles shy of I-40,” Stefanovich said of the widening. “That’s the only section we know of that is two-laned on 24. What we are encouraged to do is send a proclamation to the state as a city endorsing the fact that we are for funding that one last section so we can have continuous flow of traffic, four lanes, from Morehead City to well over on the other side of Fayetteville.”
Early in 2014, Sampson leaders wrote N.C. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata supporting the completion of the two unfunded sections of the N.C. 24 project to I-40. They said a fully four-laned N.C. 24 would offer the most expedient passage for local industries and agriculture leaders to access I-95 and I-40, while also providing a direct route between Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.
The city’s resolution echoes that yet again, explaining N.C. 24’s status as an emergency route for many of the state’s eastern communities and beaches.
“N.C. 24 provides an east-west corridor for industrial, commercial, military, and emergency traffic in this region of North Carolina, connecting the metro regions of Fayetteville and Jacksonville,” the resolution states. “Projected traffic on N.C. 24 in Clinton is expected to be as many as 30,000 vehicles a day, which will result in traffic congestion and a bottleneck at the point N.C. 24 contracts from four lanes to two lanes.”
At $1 billion annually, agribusiness represents the largest economic sector in Sampson and is reliant on adequate roads to support the trucks and equipment that are vital to the region’s economy, Council said in the resolution. Widening the final 6-mile, two-lane gap of N.C. 24 from Clinton to I-40 would “ensure the prosperity of the region and North Carolina.”
“N.C. 24 serves as the main corridor for convoys traveling between Ft. Bragg and Camp Lejeune, the shortest route between these important bases,” the resolution reads. “By not addressing our serious infrastructure deficiencies now, our region is at risk of losing its ability to compete in the future economy and its ability to provide for a healthy and vibrant North Carolina.”
The completion of the 10-mile stretch of N.C. 24 from Clinton to I-40 in Duplin, was one of the 21 projects included in a previously-floated bond proposal — at a price tag of $155 million.
Last year, an early version of ConnectNC proposed to extend road improvements on N.C. 24 from Faircloth Freeway and Sunset Avenue to west of State Road 1920 (Moltonville Road), tallying $34 million alone. However, the final $2 billion proposal up for a vote as part of upcoming primary election includes no road improvements.
“We have been at this for a long time,” Mayor Lew Starling said, “and this is the final push.”
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