Construction slated to start next winter
The U.S. 70 bypass around Havelock cleared its final hurdle this week with approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
The FHA approved the N.C. Department of Transportation Record of Decision, meaning the project can now go out for construction bids.
“I just lived long enough to see it happen,” said Havelock Commissioner Danny Walsh, a long-time board member who is also part of the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission.
The project that was first proposed in 1977 as part of Havelock’s road plan is now slated for construction in the winter of 2017.
“It’s been a long, long, long time coming,” said former longtime Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders, who has been involved in the proposed bypass for years.
The 10.3-mile, four-lane divided highway is expected to be completed in 2021. The estimated cost is $221 million.
The bypass is expected to reduce traffic in Havelock while leading to quicker access for commerce to the N.C. Port in Morehead City and quicker access for tourists to the beaches of Carteret County.
Still, the proposed bypass has drawn concern from environmentalists since part of the route cuts through the Croatan National Forest, which is home to the endangered red cockaded woodpecker. Others in Havelock have voiced concern in the past that the bypass could negatively affect businesses in the city.
“Fast-food places may see a negative impact, but I don’t think it’s the doom and gloom that some people believe it will be,” Sanders said. “Eventually, it’s going to come. What we should do is embrace it as a community, public and private, to make it a win-win.”
The NCDOT presented its preferred design for the bypass at an August 2015 meeting at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center. The FHA approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project about two months later, and the timeline for property acquisition was set for this year and next.
The bypass will run from just west of the Tucker Creek and Hickman Hills areas to the south of the city, circling around Greenfield Heights Boulevard to a crossing of Lake Road, where an interchange will be built. The highway will continue to loop back into the existing U.S. 70 just east of Havelock.