In 1977, Havelock city leaders suggested that a U.S. 70 bypass be built around Havelock.

In 1977, Havelock city leaders suggested that a U.S. 70 bypass be built around Havelock.

State transportation officials began making plans for a four-lane, interstate-style freeway from Raleigh to the coast, and so soon, the Havelock bypass started showing up on state transportation improvement plans.

For years, as the needs of the state and amount of available funding changed, so did plans for the U.S. 70 bypass around Havelock. Those plans changed so much and so often that many believed that such a bypass would never be built.

Well, the reality is that Department of Transportation personnel are out taking surveys, and the state will soon begin buying private property along the planned 10-mile route around the southern part of Havelock. Construction could start by late 2017 or early 2018, with the planned opening of the highway about three years later.

“As soon as we get approval on the environmental document [expected this fall] and do any adjustments in the final designs, it’s funded for a go,” DOT spokeswoman Diane Wilson told us. “Things are always subject to change, but at this point, it is fully funded.”

Funded to the tune of $221 million, a considerably higher amount than the estimated $13.9 million when the highway was first proposed nearly 40 years ago.

Debate among city residents continues on the bypass. Some want it and see it as a solution to traffic congestion in Havelock, and the state says it’s needed, citing projections that the city’s traffic lights and roads will simply become obsolete and unable to handle the traffic flow in another two decades.

However, many small business owners in Havelock are concerned that the bypass will hurt their businesses. After all, some rely on the traffic U.S. 70 brings through town to make a living — everybody from restaurants to car dealers to convenience stores. They don’t want Havelock to turn into another downtown Kinston, as an example.

Of course, others argue that the amount of business the traffic generates is not significant, and that Havelock’s businesses will be just fine.

Either way — and we say this knowing the history of this project — the bypass is coming in a few years, and the city and its business owners don’t have a way to fight it. The best they can do is start preparing now. They need to advertise and generate business from these U.S. 70 travelers now. That way, they will want to stop in Havelock to eat, buy a car or pick up something for their trip rather than skipping by the city.

It’s certainly not going to be easy, but there’s no getting around the U.S. 70 Havelock bypass.