Aberdeen Reviews Options on Bypass Routes
Officials expect a heavy turnout this week for the public workshops being conducted across Moore County to seek input from local residents on five proposed highway projects.
“I think there will be a competition for seats, so get there early if you want to be sure to get a seat,” Aberdeen Planning Director Kathy Lyles told the town’s board of commissioners during a special meeting last Thursday to prepare the board for the workshops.
Lyles was likely basing her recommendation on the fact that more than 300 area residents collectively attended separate informational meetings hosted by the Walthour-Moss Foundation in the past two weeks.
“Even though these projects are 15 to 20 years away, I don’t want us to stick our heads in the sand and do nothing,” Lyles said. “It’s very, very important to have our voices heard. We have to start the planning process now because if you wait you’re behind the eight ball.”
The workshops are being hosted by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT), the Moore County Transportation Committee, the Moore County Planning and Community Development Department and the Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization.
The projects include a proposed U.S. 1 bypass, improvements to N.C. 24/27 and the N.C. 211 bypass/western connection. They will be included in a Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) being developed for the county that will reflect the priorities of residents and elected officials.
According to NCDOT, the need for the projects is to ease congestion along N.C. 2, N.C. 5, U.S. 1 and U.S. 15-501.
The most vocal opposition has come from Horse Country because a bypass east of U.S. 1 would likely go through the Foundation, a 4,200-acre nature preserve that is home to large stands of longleaf pines as well as numerous endangered plants and wildlife.
NCDOT officials insist there is no plan to route the bypass through Horse Country or any other part of the county, which is why they feel the workshops are so important.
“It’s not just about one stakeholder,” said Frances Bisby, a transportation engineer for NCDOT who is spearheading the agency’s public outreach initiative for the CTP. “I want to see everyone in the county as involved as the stakeholders in the east.”
Bisby said the goal is to “build concensus among everyone in the community.”
“We want to incorporate feedback into the process,” she said. “That is what this is all about.”
The bypass would likely be an 11-mile stretch of four-lane highway that would start north of Southern Pines and reconnect south of Aberdeen.
Lyles wondered if the bypass could be shifted elsewhere in Moore County to “somewhere that doesn’t have the points of conflict that we do in Aberdeen and Southern Pines. There will be strategic corridors. We just can’t make them go away. But does this stretch of U.S. 1 have to be it?”
Lyles also questioned the use of strings and ribbons — a consensus-building exercise — during the workshops.
“We’re being asked to put down lines on a map, but it feels like we’re putting lines down without knowing a lot,” she said.
Lyles, the Foundation and others believe that NCDOT should first conduct an origination and destination study to determine how much of the traffic on U.S. 1 between Southern Pines and Aberdeen is local and how much is through-traffic.
“I think there are solutions if we don’t have freeway status,” she said.
Jumetta G. Posey, CEO of Neighborhood Solutions in Winston-Salem, said her firm has conducted strings and ribbons across the country.
“Do you have to put a line on a map? No, but why wouldn’t you want to?” Posey asked those in attendance at last week’s Foundation informational meeting. “I think there’s a lot of confusion. I want to clear up the confusion.”
Posey told the crowd that she is not an NCDOT employee, but that her firm had been hired to conduct strings and ribbons at the workshops.
“My dog in this hunt is to empower communities,” she said. “I want to encourage you to come to the workshops. This is only a plan, which is why your attendance is crucial.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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