RED SPRINGS — The North Carolina Department of Transportation is moving forward with a proposed bypass around Red Springs that connects state highways 71, 211 and 72/710 even though the project is not yet funded.
Jay McInnis, a project manager for the state DOT, told the Board of Commissioners at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night that the proposed project includes six alternate routes that would encircle the town.
The bypass would reduce tractor-trailer traffic downtown, as well as congestion on the four highways that cut through the town.
“We are eager to proceed with this,” Mayor John McNeill said. “Those trucks aren’t the worst part, but what they are hauling: hogs and chickens and other livestock.”
McNeill said N.C. 211 adds about 10,000 vehicle a day to the local traffic flow. The town is also a major thoroughfare for residents north of the town headed to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
McInnis said that the DOT was ready to move forward with the project by selecting one of the proposed routes around the town.
One route would begin at N.C. 71 west of the town and loop north connecting with N.C. 211 and N.C. 710/72. An alternate proposal would loop south of town and four others offer variations of the northern and southern routes.
“This has been something that the citizens of the town have pushed for for years,” McNeill said.
A public hearing will likely be held in late spring during which residents can offer opinions on their preferred route.
While the project is still unfunded, McNeill is optimistic that money for the $40 million to $53 million project will be found. He said he attended a regional meeting with the Lumber River Council of Governments during which the proposed highway project were prioritized, and it was rate No. 1.
Also Tuesday, the board approved a final proposal from the town’s Small Towns Economic Prosperity program, which includes four main projects to boost the education, economy, leadership and aesthetics of the town.
The program is funded through at two-part grant totaling $125,000 from the N.C. Rural Center.
The projects include a computer center, a youth entrepreneurship camp and a leadership program. The STEP leadership team has also hired a professional landscaper and organized “clean teams” to improve the appearance of the town.
Margie Labadie, secretary for STEP, said that once the projects are approved, they cannot be changed as it is part of a contract between the town and the Rural Center.
The computer center, to be housed in the American Legion building, would be a joint project with the STEP program and Robeson Community College, which has agreed to supply the computers with the stipulation that the college use them for classes in Red Springs.
Labadie said that some of the projects can begin immediately, while others, like renovations to the American Legion building, will still take some time.
Rep. Charles Graham, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he was impressed and eager to help with the projects.
“I’m hear to show my support to the town,” Graham said.
In other business, the board:
— Welcomed Bob Jones, who was hired at the town’s assistant Public Works director on Dec. 1. He has about 12 years of experience in the area of Public Works including in Creedmoor, Jacksonville, Beulaville and most recently with the Brunswick Regional Water Sewer. His salary is approximately $50,000.
— Announced a prescription drug discount plan that all town residents will be eligible for through the National League of Cities at no cost to the town.
— Approved a $200,000 contract with W.K. Dickson for engineering and contract services for a water tank removal and water line replacement project in Westside Heights.
— Reach staff writer Ali Rockett at 910-272-6127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.