U.S. 17 Bypass completed, opens ahead of schedule

Published 3:34 pm Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Managing Editor

The U.S. Highway 17 bypass, intended to ease traffic congestion in Washington, opened March 23, 2010, eight months ahead of schedule. The bypass opening is sixth on the Washington Daily News’ Top 10 stories of 2010 list.
Construction of the $192 million bypass, which rerouted traffic on U.S. 17 around Washington, began in March 2007. The bypass stretches 6.8 miles from Price Road near Chocowinity to Springs Road in Washington, and was the first highway in Beaufort County built using the “design-build” method. The “top-down” method of building the bypass bridge received international attention.
The project was a joint venture between Flatiron Constructors and United Contractors. The N.C. Department of Transportation and Flatiron/United received a Federal Highway Administration Award for Environmental Excellence in Ecosystems, Habitat and Wildlife for the bypass project.
One month prior to the opening of the bypass, 10 members of the N.C. Board of Transportation voted unanimously to name the U.S. Highway 17 bypass bridge over the Tar River after the late Ashley B. Futrell Sr., who served as a state senator and was the editor and publisher of the Washington Daily News.
Futrell’s name is in the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame. He served three terms in the Senate, from 1965 until 1972, read a draft resolution in favor of naming the bridge for the former lawmaker.
Through action in the Legislature, Futrell supported building the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and advocated for starting Beaufort County Community College.
Futrell died in February 2005.
The opening of the bypass presented new challenges to law-enforcement agencies, emergency-services personnel and local governments. The Washington Police Department, Beaufort County officials and the Highway Patrol developed strategies for dealing with emergencies on the bypass. In some instances, Washington officers patrolling the bypass, including the Ashley B. Futrell Sr. bridge, are required to enter other jurisdictions to return to the city.
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