U.S. 1 Bypass Opponents Vigilant in Fight
Opponents of a U.S. 1 bypass through Moore County’s Horse Country believe their battle with the N.C. Department of Transportation is akin to a boxing match.
“We are in round two of a 12-round fight,” said Stephen Later, president of the Walthour-Moss Foundation. “Our community has rallied and won round one. It’s been quiet for a while, but the bypass threat is not gone.
“We’re up against a bully with a $4 billion annual budget.”
Later and the Foundation held an “update” meeting Wednesday at the Sunrise Theater attended by about 80 people.
The proposed bypass likely would 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.
Later said the community won round one because the DOT has yet to release the results of public workshops held last November across Moore County to gather citizen input.
“The results were due in January. The last excuse I heard is that they had a second computer crash,” he said. “We let them know there is no local support for this plan. You folks made a difference and that’s why we’re here fighting round two.”
Ted Vaden, deputy secretary for internal and external affairs at DOT, said a report will be presented to the Moore County Transportation Committee next month.
“We haven’t forgotten about it,” Vaden said.
Later said DOT didn’t know how to react to a concerted effort to defeat the bypass.
“They came down here with their standard playbook. They’re used to steamrolling,” he said. “What’s their next play? It’s tough to know.”
Vaden said DOT is conducting several traffic studies in Moore County, including an origin-and-destination study along U.S. 1, but he did not know if they would be finished in time for next month’s meeting.
The U.S. 1 bypass is one of five major road projects in Moore County that will be included in a comprehensive transportation plan being developed for the county that will reflect the priorities of residents and elected officials.
The other projects include improvements to N.C. 24/27 and the N.C. 211 Bypass/ Western Connection. According to the DOT, the need for these projects is to ease heavy traffic congestion along N.C. 2, N.C. 5, U.S. 1 and U.S. 15-501.
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.
Moore County commissioners adopted a resolution last December opposing a bypass through Horse Country. The mayors of Southern Pines, Pinehurst, Aberdeen and Pinebluff are also on record opposing the freeway.
“It’s not just Horse Country. The whole county has rallied to oppose this bypass,” Later said.
DOT officials have insisted that there is no plan to route a U.S. 1 bypass through Horse Country or any other part of Moore County. But the Foundation is not convinced.
“DOT is clearly in the road-building business. They are not in the community-building business,” said Larry Best, a former member of the Foundation’s board of directors. “It’s going to be an ongoing battle. We all must stay very, very engaged in this process and not lose focus.”
Foundation board member Katie Walsh said the foundation spent $50,000 in 2011 fighting the bypass and budgeted another $50,000 this year.
“The Foundation needs your help to save our forest, cultural heritage and quality of life in Moore County,” Walsh said. “An informed community is stronger than a single voice.”
Walsh noted that the Foundation will host two fundraisers later this year — a Horse Country social on Oct. 28 and a Save Our Forest golf tournament Dec. 9.
Fellow board member David Carter told the group that the Foundation is also seeking National Historic Register status.
“It would provide us only limited protection, but it would be another arrow in our quiver,” Carter said. “DOT is our threat today. This land is not ours, but it was entrusted to us.”
Later said the Foundation is essentially building a series of impediments to the project in hopes of getting it killed.
“We’re working on multiple strategies,” he said. “There is no silver bullet. This is a matter of coming at them from a number of fronts.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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