Richardson offers name for bypass

Published 9:58 pm Saturday, January 5, 2008

By Staff
Will offer a resolution to name ‘useless road’ after his political foes
Staff Writer
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson wants to name the U.S. 17 Highway bypass in Washington to recognize his political opponents who supported building it in what he believes is the wrong location.
When the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meets Monday night, Richardson plans to introduce a resolution to name the bypass after the Democrats he said pushed to have the bridge built west of Washington’s core rather than having it built to the east of the city’s center. Locating the bypass east of Washington would unite the eastern portions of the county separated by the Pamlico River, he said.
The Pamlico River is three miles wide at its widest point, but law-enforcement and emergency-services vehicles have to travel 60 miles to get from Belhaven to Aurora, having to come to Washington to cross the existing U.S. 17 bridge. Also, motorists may take the free ferry from Bayview to Aurora, which runs about every two hours and takes 30 minutes to cross the river. As the crow flies, the two communities are less than 25 miles apart.
Richardson contends that building a bridge farther east would save money and travel time for county residents.
The 6.8-mile, $190 million bypass project will eventually extend from Springs Road just north of Washington to Price Road just south of Chocowinity. Construction on the bypass began in February 2007.
Commissioner Robert Cayton, a Democrat, said the bridge is being built in the appropriate place and will be a boon to economic development across the county. He said it will aid Washington in growing along the south side of the river and along U.S. Highway 264 while helping Chocowinity to grow along U.S. 17 and east and west along N.C. Highway 33.
The 2.9-mile bypass bridge over the Tar River (known as the Pamlico River east of the U.S. 17 bridge at Washington) is the largest and most expensive portion of the project. Most of the bridge will span protected wetlands on the south side of the river, with only about one-fourth of its length over the river. Construction of the bridge began on the south side of the river.
Richardson said those who supported building the bypass west of the city’s core shortchanged the county on economic-development opportunities that should arise when the bypass opens to traffic.