Saturday, June 15, 2024

Hampstead Bypass construction to start in February, NCDOT awards contract

The NCDOT has selected Stantec to engineer the Hampstead Bypass from I-140 to U.S. 17 (Port City Daily photo/COURTESY STANTEC)
NCDOT awarded Conti Civil LLC the construction contract to begin work on the Hampstead Bypass in February. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The N.C. Department of Transportation greenlit construction on the long-awaited Hampstead Bypass, set to begin next month. The new highway —first approved in 2014 following environmental assessments and design reviews — is expected to improve traffic flow into Pender and New Hanover counties.

An $185-million contract was awarded Wednesday to Conti Civil LLC, out of Edison, New Jersey, to construct the four-lane, 7-mile highway. The bypass will run south of N.C. 210 and connect to U.S. 17, north of Topsail schools. This initial, northern phase of the two-part project is expected to open by fall of 2026.

READ MORE: Hampstead Bypass inches closer to groundbreaking in Pender County

“This is a major milestone and marks a huge leap in improving how people will travel in southeastern North Carolina, especially between Wilmington and Hampstead,” NCDOT division 3 engineer Chad Kimes said in a press release. “This bypass will also make a big difference in the congestion U.S. 17 is now experiencing in this fast-growing region.”

Work on the first 5.6-mile segment of the Hampstead Bypass will begin Feb. 28. Crews will clear land and trees and apply grading, drainage and paving. In addition, traffic signals and retaining walls will be installed.

Upgrades to an existing 1.5 miles will occur subsequently, starting with the route between Brickyard Road and Holiday Drive on Aug. 27. Simultaneously, construction will start on the Hoover Road interchange. All lanes will remain open during peak travel times: 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

In February 2023, contractors will start on the N.C. 210 interchange. Improvements to U.S. 17 will begin in August 2023. During that section of work, contractors will not close any lanes between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Included in the contract, Conti Civil will upgrade nearly a mile of roadway between the new bypass and an area north of Sloop Point Road with raised medians. The design also incorporates reduced-conflict intersections, which are proposed to improve traffic flow by cutting down potential locations where drivers could collide with other vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians.

“Corridors with growing traffic volumes and high crash rates are good candidates for a reduced-conflict intersection,” according to NCDOT’s website.

Raised medians direct traffic from a side road to turn right onto busy main roads. Drivers pull into a dedicated lane, typically less than 1,000 feet away, to make a U-turn to travel in the opposite direction.

Reports from the Federal Highway Administration in 2017 found that reduced-conflict interactions without traffic signals decreased crashes by 46% compared to conventional four-way intersections. NCDOT also noted reduced-conflict intersections can accommodate more traffic with fewer delays.

Traffic on U.S. Highway 17 has long been a concern for both locals and officials. As the Hampstead area has experienced considerable growth over the last decade, a 79% population increase, vehicular volume has increased and is expected to worsen as development persists. 

The two-lane road between Wilmington and Hampstead often creates extensive backlogs of vehicles, especially during commuter travel or when accidents occur. According to NCDOT, an average of 43,000 vehicles travel that highway daily.

Hampstead Traffic, a Facebook group formed February 2021, has become a popular way for locals to inform others of traffic and accidents along U.S. 17, often a daily occurrence.

A contract for construction on the second segment of the bypass, from N.C. 210 (formerly known as the U.S. 17 Wilmington Bypass) to west of N.C. 210, is scheduled to be awarded in 2026, following completion of the current phase.

The Hampstead Bypass, totaling 12.6 miles once complete, has been in the works for the last 16 years and is slated to open in 2030. The route will start at a proposed interchange with U.S. 17 Wilmington Bypass and extend northwest to Pender County, past Sidbury Road. From there, the road will turn northeast and continue to a proposed interchange with N.C. 210 to extend northeast and behind the Topsail High campus.

It has a total estimated price tag of $429 million, funded as part of the current State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which identifies 1,718 projects across North Carolina to receive funding through 2029. The Highway Trust Fund, largely financed by the gas tax, is the primary revenue for STIP.

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