By Kendall McGee | February 9, 2021 at 2:44 PM EST – Updated February 9 at 7:22 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Nearly a year after the North Carolina Department Of Transport (NCDOT) announced the pandemic had threatened its finances, things are looking up.
This spring, the department had to furlough its employees and cut projects, citing a loss of revenue from dwindling fuel sales during the state’s stay at home order.
This time last year, the NCDOT had $300 million in its account; today that balance is $1.1 billion.
Leaders say since last spring, they completely overhauled their 10-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Where they were cutting programs in the spring, they’re starting to turn them back on again after they were frozen for the better part of a year.
The 10-year STIP has been restructured and now projects through 2025 are coming back to life for engineering, including the Hampstead Bypass.
In the near future, drivers will be able to get from Brunswick County to Jacksonville in a flash.
Construction will begin on the northern part a year from now. It will take four years to complete the complicated interchanges that portion calls for. Another segment must still be constructed before it’s completely done, but the intent is to open the entire project in 2026.
“Our detour — if there’s an accident in Hampstead today — there’s really no detour. You can go up to Holly Ridge, go back out to 53, down to 40, and it’s a 40 or 50 mile detour. So with the bypass, it will eliminate backups there in Hampstead, you see, when there’s wrecks,” said Chad Kimes, division engineer for district 3.
A lot of projects were shifted around when they experienced their revenue crisis, but the DOT never stopped projects already underway like the Market Street corridor and the Military Cutoff extension.
Kimes says the Military Cutoff project is a vital component of the Hampstead Bypass and when it’s all said and done, you’ll be able to drive from Hampstead to Mayfair in about 15 minutes.
New plan comes with silver linings for area drivers
The Gordon Road expansion was initially at the back of the DOT’s 10-year plan, but its since been accelerated. Designers are already working to make the thoroughfare connecting I-40 to Market Street a multi-lane road. Now, construction will begin in 2025.
Another project that would widen 211 to a four-lane road is also ahead of schedule. It was initially slated to begin in 2022, but it will now begin construction this November. The $100 million project will cover 10 miles between Southport and Midway Road.
The district’s engineer says more positive news could be in store for the future, as well.
“The DOT is still looking for solutions on how to increase our revenues and if they do that, projects like the Carolina Beach Road median project that fell back, the College road projects — they might have a chance to move back forward if we can find the additional revenues,” said Kimes.
Also at the top of the list of their priorities, is maintaining the roads they have built already. Recently, the region was allocated $55 million to resurface roads, a significant bump from the $30 million usually given to the region for resurfacing.
Copyright 2021 WECT. All rights reserved.