U.S. 17 a likely go

Published 9:15 pm Friday, December 16, 2016

U.S. Highway 17 could be completed in the next several years.

This week, NCDOT released its list of projects selected and expected to be funded in the 2018-2027 State Transportation Improvement Program. The list includes a two-lane stretch of U.S. 17 between Washington and Williamston, as well as other U.S. 17 projects in Craven and Martin counties, all aimed at making U.S. 17 a four-lane highway from Virginia to South Carolina.

Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood said inclusion of widening U.S. 17 in the proposed plan is exciting.

“This has been a top priority for the Board of Commissioners for many, many years, so they will be very pleased,” said county Manager Brian Alligood.

Alligood said a continuous four-lane U.S. 17 will be good not just for Beaufort County’s economic prospects, but for the entire region.

“It will help the ability to move goods and services in and out of Beaufort County,” Alligood said. “It will help the region tremendously.”

Lack of access to a major transportation thruway has been a drawback in trying to attract industry to the county in recent years, according to county officials, and the state formula used to determine what projects get funded is weighed heavily in favor of projects relieving traffic congestion in urban areas.

If given the final approval, construction will not start for several years. The released list of NCDOT Division 1 projects shows that the agency will have the draft right-of-way completed by 2020 and construction started by 2022, which Alligood said bodes well.

“That’s pretty aggressive,” he said.

That the environmental paperwork was previously been done and public hearings have already been held for Beaufort County’s stretch of unfinished U.S. 17 has likely contributed to an accelerated schedule, according to NCDOT officials.

“That is going to reduce the overall timeline a little bit. The project is read as one piece. … Since the whole thing is one (piece), some of that study area will be reduced, so naturally the timeline for the entire environmental work will be expedited,” said Bill Kincannon, resident engineer with NCDOT’s Division 2. “We just have initial approval, so we’re looking at several years down the road before there’s actual construction going on.”

“I just kind of hope things continue to move forward and it stays on its timeline,” Alligood said.

Widening the existing two-lane 10-mile stretch of the highway between Washington and Williamston will cost an estimated $72.1 million.