No Time for Apathy on U.S. 1 Plan
By Alison McCormack
Special to The Pilot
You've probably heard about the North Carolina Department of Transportation's intention to run a freeway through Southern Pines and Aberdeen. If not, consider this your notification.
If you live in this beautiful area, and care about preserving our way of life here, you've got a dog in this fight, and you need to get involved. Mark your calendar for 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 5. That's the date for the "special public hearing" our county commissioners have called to find out what the people of Moore County have to say about this issue.
It will be held in the old courthouse building in Carthage. Think you don't need to be there? Keep reading.
Here's a recap: In 2004, without legislative approval, the North Carolina Board of Transportation adopted a concept called the Strategic Highway Corridors Plan (SHCP). The objective of the SHCP is to create a network of high-speed freeways through our state, northern border to southern border.
This resulted in the targeting of U.S. 1 through Southern Pines and Aberdeen for a "freeway/ bypass." Why? That's unclear. There have been vague comments about "travel safety" and "homeland security," but no concise answers.
What we do know is that it's happening because about 3.5 miles of our existing U.S. 1 (the section starting near the Morganton Road exit and continuing south through Aberdeen) doesn't mesh with the guidelines for the Corridor Plan. The NCDOT has cited this as a "problem area."
There's been lots of confusion about what's really going on in regard to U.S. 1. The reason for this is simple: Moore County's goals are completely different from those of the NCDOT. We want to solve our local traffic problems. They want to complete another section of the Strategic Highway Corridor Plan. They are attempting to achieve their goal by disguising their agenda as the answer to our local traffic issues.
The NCDOT engineers are not evil; they build roads for a living. Hence their tenacity in attempting to justify the need for this freeway. They originally claimed the traffic congestion we have is due to residents of our northern cities traveling south through our area. Anyone living here knows there's virtually no traffic on U.S. 1 south of Aberdeen. The congestion is local traffic.
When that dog didn't hunt, they tried another approach, citing "projected future growth" in our area as justification - a disingenuous statement, since these types of roadways are not designed for the purpose of moving traffic within a town, but for moving it through a town.
Let's be honest. If their goal was truly to fix our local traffic issues, and to find out how the people of Moore County want to achieve that with U.S. 1, then we wouldn't be having a discussion about a freeway or a bypass at all. Those NCDOT workshops were a farce.
The bottom line: We don't have to accept a freeway or bypass just because the NCDOT says we do. We need to do whatever it takes to have this "requirement" for a freeway downgraded to a thoroughfare.
We need to make appropriate upgrades to the existing "problem area" of U.S. 1 to improve safety and traffic flow, and upgrade surrounding secondary roads to relieve congestion and distribute traffic more effectively. This would solve the problems we really do have, while preserving the things that matter most to us.
We have a lot at stake. There've been numerous articles in The Pilot about what this would do to Horse Country, and how a bypass through the Walthour-Moss Foundation would be devastating to all of us. Believe it. "Devastating" doesn't even begin to cover it.
But this isn't just about Horse Country. There's the preservation of our neighborhoods and the very homes we live in to be considered, as well as the character of our downtown areas and the well-being of our shops and businesses.
This is no time for apathy. We're all busy. Go to www.nobypass.com and give yourself an education. Those old maps of previously proposed routes are a real eye-opener. Go to the public hearing on Dec. 5. Moore County is about to go on record with an "official position" about this issue. The hearing will determine what that position is. Write to your local and state officials.
The decisions being made now are going to dramatically affect the future of our towns and everyone who lives here. Once done, the damage cannot be undone. We'll have to live with it forever. Forever is a very long time.
Alison McCormack is a real estate broker and aspiring writer who has lived in Southern Pines since 1999.
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