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Bertie Commissioners debate US 13, NC 11 issue

WINDSOR – The debate continues over local upgrades to US 13 and NC 11.

At Monday’s Bertie County Board of Commissioners meeting, what began as a discussion over scheduling a Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) meeting turned towards the ongoing debate over improvements to highways 11 and 13.

Commissioner Norman Cherry Sr., vice-chairman of the board, opened the door to the discussion by asking Bertie Economic Development Director Steve Biggs how much input the board would have in this issue.

“This board will have an awful lot of input,” Biggs replied.

Speaking in regards to the local Peanut Belt RPO (Rural Planning Organization) contingent, Biggs continued by saying, “Other than Bertie, the only other county involved in the 11/13 issue is Hertford. Northampton and Halifax do not have a dog in this particular fight.”

Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton form the Peanut Belt RPO, an entity established in 2002 by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It was designed to give leaders in those four counties the opportunity to take the lead in planning local transportation and to help shape the future of their regions.

Biggs stated that in his opinion, this issue will be decided by politics. Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb was in agreement of that opinion.

“Four-laning US 13 is funded in the state TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan), but NC 11 is not,” Lamb said. “What we’re looking at here is two pots of money; federal money for US 13 and state money for NC 11. What some want to do is shift the federal money for US 13 to the western part of the state for a project there in return for their state project money shifting to the east for improvements to NC 11.”

The discussion then turned to the planned US 13 bypass of Ahoskie.

“That is the oldest bypass plan in the TIP,” Biggs noted. “That plan has been approved for years, but there was concern on the route that bypass would take.”

“Their (Ahoskie/Hertford County) position over the past few years is they do not want a bypass around Ahoskie,” Lamb said. “They want to keep the traffic and the commerce in town.”

Lamb encouraged the commissioners not to narrow their focus to just one project.

“I don’t want to see us be either US 13 or NC 11,” Lamb said. “I’d like to see us support both projects.”

However, according to Biggs, there’s another “player” in this ongoing debate.

“Don’t forget about US 158,” said Biggs in reference to the major east-west highway that runs through Halifax, Northampton and Hertford counties. “I’m thinking that Hertford County will support NC 11 and US 158. Why can’t we make a statement that we’re putting our support behind NC 11 and US 13?”

Preliminary plans call for four laning US 158 from the Murfreesboro bypass to Winton. Another part of that plan is to four-lane US 158 from I-95 to the Murfreesboro bypass, including bypasses around Jackson and Conway.

The Bertie Commissioners took no action on the issue. However, they did schedule a 4 p.m. CTP meeting on Oct. 16.