Commentary

The cost of bypassing Havelock

MCT Information ServicesAugust 17, 2012 

The following editorial appeared Aug. 9 in The Havelock News:

The U.S. 70 bypass of Havelock is another step closer after last week’s release of the environmental study examining the three proposed routes the highway would take. The N.C. Department of Transportation backs alternative No. 3, which makes a lot of sense to us.

First, fewer property owners will have to be displaced.... We’re also pleased that the DOT prefers the least expensive alternative at $163 million, but we’ll address that momentarily. Alternative No. 2 was certainly a shorter distance and more of a straight line to the ultimate destination, but it simply didn’t make sense in terms of its expense and the removal of private property owners.

Environmental groups tend not to be happy about the proposed bypass that cuts through part of the Croatan National Forest and through habitat areas of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. They have expressed concerns in the past about the plight of the birds with the bypass coming in, and we’re sure in their minds that this report did little to allay their fears.

However, we were told two years ago by a U.S. Forest Service biologist that the bypass and woodpeckers could coexist. We have no new reason to doubt her conclusions.

The U.S. 70 bypass could hurt local businesses, especially the restaurants, gas stations and hotels that serve many tourists who drive through our town. However, the bypass could also serve as an opportunity for new businesses to pop up along its three exits.

Still, our biggest concern with the U.S. 70 bypass is the cost. In 1977 when first proposed, the cost of the 10-mile bypass was estimated at $13.9 million. Now, the highway is expected to cost $163 million, and we’re sure by the time the four-lane divided highway is constructed, that price will increase.

According to DOT, about 11,000 vehicles a day will travel on the highway, and we would guess that each would probably save about 10 minutes by not driving through Havelock.

Time is supposed to be precious, savored and priceless. In terms of the Havelock bypass, time has a very expensive price tag.

MCT Information Services

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