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Hampstead Citizen Group to Challenge NC Department of Transportation Over Proposed Bypass Plan

ChapelPond.jpg
Hampstead's Chapel Pond, home to several types of birds and fish, would be destroyed under the DOT's proposed bypass plan.

A group of Hampstead citizens has organized to oppose a proposed interchange along Highway 17 that would bisect their town. Construction of this thirty-million-dollar ramp is slated to begin in 2023; however, the local group is already fighting the six-lane interchange, saying the project will disrupt local business and the environment.

Citizens for the Hampstead Bypass, or C4HB--a grassroots committee of 24 residents--is circulating a petition to get state legislators to stop the project. After the state DOT unveiled bypass plans last August, the group commissioned an engineer to perform a local traffic study. C4HB spokesperson Mike Nadeau says those results showed Hampstead’s two existing interchanges are sufficient—and he adds that the community is uniformly opposed to a third.

"There’s people from both sides of every controversial issue we’ve had—we have businesspeople, environmentalists; we have lifetime residents, we have newcomers; old, young—so it’s been kind of interesting. This whole plan and this subsequent intransigence have united the whole community."

Jay McInnis, a project engineer for NCDOT, says the department planned the interchange in response to Pender County citizens’ desire for greater access to Highway 17--expressed at a 2011 public hearing.

"We looked at, how can we fit something in here to respond to the public’s desire to have this access. What we ended up with was a small, smaller interchange, that’s merely intended to provide access--local access. It’s not really meant to carry a whole lot of traffic."

Last week, Representative Chris Millis sent a letter to the DOT in support of C4HB’s case. The two organizations will meet face-to-face at Pender County Commission’s April 7 meeting.