By: Al Freimark
I'm Al Freimark. I have, for a number of years, served as Pender County's Representative on the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Wilmington Metropolitan Organization (WMPO).
Our Charge is to create a long range transportation plan for the more urban area of New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender Counties.
In Pender County our focus is on the more heavily populated area of coastal Pender…particularly along the path of Hwy 17 in the Hampstead area.
Hwy 17 is Hampstead's "downtown" and is heavily traveled. It is most often the only route for local travel to schools, churches, stores, and is the primary evacuation route when necessary. It also serves as the primary north/south coastal route for all civilian and military traffic from Virginia to South Carolina.
After many years of study the NCDOT has agreed that a bypass around Hampstead is needed, and a route has been chosen that will allow non-local traffic to go around and avoid the traffic lights and congestion.
A northern interchange is planned just north of Topsail
High School on a path that will take it west around Hampstead's 5 schools
toward southern interchange with Highway 210 and then on to I-140 in New
At a well attend attended recent meeting at Topsail High the NCDOT gave the Public an opportunity to view the latest plans and speak to their representatives. To the surprise of many attendees the DOT had added a 3rd interchange that would connect the Bypass with "Local Hwy. .17 right smack in the middle of the Hampstead Business District…next to where the Sawmill Grill is presently located. By definition & function that is a "Cut –Through… not a By-Pass."
And, that interchange would be
compromised of a stoplight and 11 lanes for the local traveler to decide
on…and, at a cost that has been estimated to be an additional $30 million.
My Turn: After speaking with and listening to many interested people for many years, I suggest that the NCDOT continue its plan to acquire the land and build the Hampstead Bypass with two Hampstead Interchanges as originally planned. One on the northern end at the inter-
Section of Hwy 17 and the High School and the other at the intersection of the Bypass and Hwy 210 and continue to study the need for a third interchange in "Downtown Hampstead."
That land can be made available and the third interchange- or "Cut Through" built, if and when, the traffic warrants it and the people agree.
That's My Turn…now it's Your..What do you think?