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Local highway project beginning soon

By Philip Sayblack

For the Washington Daily News

Work on a long-delayed transportation project in Beaufort County is expected to start later this year.

Expansion of NC Highway 17 between Washington and Williamston from two lanes to four is expected to start in December. NCDOT Division 1 Project Engineer John Abel said the project is the final phase of the state’s overall expansion of NC Highway 17, adding the project’s initial phase expanded the road between Washington and New Bern.

“This project was originally scheduled to let in December 2020, but because of budgetary issues that the NCDOT went through, the department had to put a hold on all projects,” said Abel. “The pandemic didn’t help us either. The first phase of this project will involve moving power lines, fiber optic lines and other electric utilities.”

Fayetteville-based Carolina Power & Signalization was awarded the contract for that work at the Aug. 9 meeting of the Washington City Council. The city will pay the company approximately $616,889.59, and the DOT will reimburse that cost, so it will end up not costing the city anything out of pocket.

Washington Finance Director Matt Rauschenbach said the money that the city will pay for the utility movement was budgeted in the city’s Capital Projects Fund two years ago.”

Abel said the actual construction that will expand the 10.6 mile stretch between Williamston and Washington is expected to start between May and June 2022. He said there will be traffic disruptions as a result of the work.

“Drivers will see lane shifts and detours,” said Abel. “The NDOT will have message boards up, though, letting drivers know about the traffic shifts. We will work diligently to make sure the public is kept up to date about those changes.”

“Hopefully once this expansion is done and more traffic is able to flow between Williamston and Washington, it will bring more people to the city to spend money,” added Abel. “Additionally, it will hopefully attract more industry and partnerships that otherwise might have otherwise not shown any interest in the region.”

Washington Mayor Donald Sadler echoed Abel’s sentiments about the economic impact of the expansion on the city.

“The City of Washington has been anticipating this expansion project for a long time,” he said. “It will be a great impact for our city because it will mean more people will hopefully be encouraged to come stop in Washington and spend some time and money here.”

Sadler added the city is in ongoing talks with some well-known national retailers recently about potentially bringing stores to the city. He said officials with those companies have expressed interest in the road expansion project as a potential factor in their discussions with the city.