Construction for long-awaited Hampstead Bypass should began in coming months

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A project more than 10 years in the making will soon break ground, relieving Hampstead traffic that can back up for miles.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, construction for the Hampstead Bypass should start toward the beginning of next year, finishing up in 2030.

Pender County and the Hampstead community have lobbied the NCDOT for years to build a bypass around Hampstead to help alleviate some traffic from Highway 17.

“The timeline of the bypass probably has been moved up significantly due to local efforts and collaboration within the region,” said county manager Chad McEwen.

McEwen drives through the corridor twice a day, and says without an alternate route, traffic can pile up quickly.

“It’s not unreasonable or rare for it to be backed up a mile,” he said.

Especially if there’s a car accident, said Leaf and Barrel owner David Blackwell, saying, “People are driving like Ricky Bobby out there.”

The future bypass has been in the works since mid 2011.

Since 2010, Hampstead’s population has grown 71 percent, raising even more safety concerns.

“You’re in bumper to bumper traffic,” said Blackwell. “People are pulling over to use the restroom. Sometimes its completely stopped. Had an 18 wheeler take out a bunch of telephone poles one time. It was incredible.”

Pender County Commission Chair George Brown hopes the bypass will improve safety by reducing congestion during rush hours.

“It’s going to be a lot safer,” he explained. “It is actually dangerous for anyone to pull out of anywhere along Highway 17 in Hampstead and try to make a left hand turn.”

Since moving to Pender County in the 1980’s, Brown said there’s been talk about a bypass. Now that it’s finally starting the first step in the building process, he says he couldn’t be more thrilled.

“It’s kind of like what you’ve asked for for Christmas, and now Christmas is getting ready to happen. You know, so we’re eager.”

Commissioner Brown said the NCDOT will start accepting bids in mid-November, awarding a contract the first of January and starting construction in either February or March.

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