Some Hampstead residents pushing to have a midtown interchange cut from the Hampstead bypass plan have gained support from local and state representatives, who now are asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to show justification for the proposed interchange and its cost.
In a recent letter to Jason Soper, director of legislative affairs and policy for NCDOT, state Rep. Chris Millis, R-Pender, stresses the importance of the Hampstead bypass and “the great need of the uninterrupted completion” of the project. But he adds: “While a timely project completion is a priority, I must also emphasize the need to be prudent with public money at every opportunity. In this letter I would like to address an opportunity that has presented itself to ensure that these public funds associated with the Hampstead Bypass are being put to wise use.”
Millis notes “a significant amount of talk” throughout the Hampstead community about the midtown interchange.
He acknowledges that NCDOT traffic projections during the planning phase of the project supported keeping the middle interchange but says he understood the traffic demands would get a “second look” when the project advances to right-of-way acquisition and construction.
Millis’ letter asks that a meeting take place soon between NCDOT officials in charge of the bypass project and “specific stakeholders within the Hampstead community.”
“It is my desire that this meeting will help lead to an outcome that will warrant the need (or “lack of need”) of the Mid-Town Interchange by NCDOT and make way for public confidence of the wise use of our public monies,” he concludes.
County Commissioners Chairman David Williams chimed in on the matter in an email Thursday, calling Millis’ letter “a fair summary as I understand things.”
While local officials don’t want anything to slow the bypass project, he says in the email, “We will, however, let folks know that we must justify the dollars.”
A newly formed group known as Citizens for the Hampstead Bypass, or C4HB, held a rally Feb. 27 at Chapel Pond, located off of U.S. 17 in Hampstead, and is circulating a petition to be sent to state leaders to intervene in the DOT’s plan.
Group members say the midtown interchange is unnecessary and a waste of $30 million. They argue it will disrupt the local U.S. 17 business district; eliminate The Sawmill Grill, a popular restaurant and meeting place in Hampstead; and lead to the filling-in of Chapel Pond, a “historic” train stop and a place for local baptisms for many years. It would also wipe out dozens of cypress trees believed to be 200 to 300 years old, opponents say.
The group says the traffic projections relied upon by the NCDOT to determine the need for the midtown interchange are inaccurate and not based on a Hampstead-specific trip generation traffic study. Members say a C4HB-sponsored community-specific analysis shows that the midtown interchange is not needed and that the proposed northern interchange above the Topsail schools and southern interchange at N.C. 210 will be sufficient for the bypass.