Local government officials are rallying support to complete upgrades for a four-lane expansion of the N.C. 24 corridor, a major connector between Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune running through the heart of Clinton and Sampson County.
Of the 40-mile, approximately $400 million project, 34 miles has been funded and the Sampson Board of Commissioners has joined the Clinton City Council and the Town of Newton Grove in adopting a resolution for funding the last remaining section, extending from Moltonville Road to Interstate 40.
The towns of Roseboro and Garland were expected to adopt resolutions at their respective meetings Tuesday night.
The N.C. 24 project proposes a four-lane roadway stretching for approximately 40 miles, from Cumberland County to I-40 near Warsaw, however for a long time just two-thirds of the project — four of six segments — was funded, with construction to be cut off halfway through Sampson.
At the end of February, one of the last two unfunded segments was approved for state funds. That fifth funded segment, deemed segment E, would leave just segment F — a 6-mile gap between Moltonville Road and I-40.
Commissioners unanimously adopted the resolution calling for that gap to be closed with a four-lane treatment.
According to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s amended 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), updated last week, segments A, B, C and D are all currently under construction.
Segment A is completely in Cumberland County, extending from west of State Road 1006 (Maxwell Road/Clinton Road) to SR 1853 (John Nunnery Road) in Cumberland. Segment B extends from John Nunnery Road in Cumberland to SR 1404 (Dowdy Road) in Sampson.
Segments C and D are both completely in Sampson, with C extending from Dowdy Road to SR 1303 (Mitchell Loop Road) and D going from Mitchell Loop Road to U.S. 421/701 Bypass (Faircloth Freeway). That is where for a long time funding for the project ended.
The Fred Smith Company Construction is handling those C and D segments. That work began in October 2013 and has a completion date set at March 2018. Those segments combine for a $88.5 million project area that includes 16 miles of highway construction, eight new bridges, 78,000 linear feet of curb and gutter, 60,000 linear feet of water and sewer line, 72,000 linear feet of storm drainage and a whopping 370,000 tons of asphalt, the company stated.
Segment E, the portion recently approved for funding, will extend from the bypass to west of SR 1920 (Moltonville Road). Funding for that segment is scheduled from 2019-22 at a total construction cost of about $28 million, the STIP shows. According to state officials, right of way acquisition for segment E will start in 2017-18, the same year construction on C and D is expected to be completed.
Segment F, which would extend the rest of the way to I-40, would cost $119 million, including roughly $14 million in right of way costs and the remaining $105 million in construction, according to the STIP. That last segment has not received funding.
Commissioners adopting the resolution to fund Segment F as part of their consent agenda without discussion. However, Clinton City Councilman Steve Stefanovich last month did note the dedication of the Sampson Transportation Advisory Group, 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,” Stefanovich said, noting the approved funding for segment E just weeks earlier. “That will leave us 6 miles shy of I-40. 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 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.”
That’s just what the Council did and the Board of Commissioners has now followed suit.
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 local resolutions, which are identical to each other, echo that yet again for the remaining 6-mile portion, 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.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.