Commissioners vote to support median on Highway 17

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Commissioners in Pender County voted Tuesday night to support a proposal to add a median to Highway 17 to improve the road's safety.

After a yearlong safety study, a large median was proposed in December as an answer, but that solution was initially shot down.  Some argued the median would slow emergency vehicles and deter customers from shopping in nearby businesses.

Commissioner Chester Ward was the only one who voted against the median during Tuesday's meeting.

About half the audience in attendance Tuesday night signed up for the public comment portion of the meeting.

Many agreed that Highway 17 is dangerous, but they're also divided on how to solve the issue.

Pender County residents showed up to Tuesday's meeting prepared to fight, some even bringing signs.

After nearly 20 speakers, commissioners voted that they were, in fact, going to do something.

Half the room left satisfied knowing the year of safety studies would finally add up to some physical road changes.

Others left the meeting enraged. Rodney Simpkins, who is against the median, said commissioners should be ashamed.

"It's unbelievable that they do not get the problem in Hampstead at this point," said Simpkins.

He added that the median will not keep danger off the five-mile affected stretch of road in Hampstead, because speed will continue to be the killer.

DOT division engineer Allen Pope says the DOT can't do anything about the speed issue; rather, local law enforcement handles that.

But he says that the median might not end up being the end-all be-all.

"If we cannot obtain funding to do all of it, we'll go back and start building it in small pieces," said Pope.

Pope with says there will be several opportunities for public input once the project begins.

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