Groundbreaking ceremony for Highway 17 widening project

Groundbreaking ceremony for Highway 17 widening project
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 8:47 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2022 at 5:46 PM EDT
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WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (WITN) - Area leaders and State Department of Transportation officials broke ground Thursday for a project to widen U.S. 17 in Martin and Beaufort Counties.

State officials say the project will widen 10.6 miles of the highway north of Highway 171 near the Old Ford community to the existing four lanes just south of Williamston.

Preconstruction has already started on the $86 million project. Officials say the project is vital to the tourism and economic development of northeastern North Carolina.

“We have a lot of people from Virginia that travel through here on the way to the beach,” Frankie Waters, Beaufort County commissioner said. “It’s also a link that’s important to the military that links the military up in Hampton Roads with all the military we have here in eastern North Carolina.”

The project’s finalization will require the hard work of the DOT. Community leaders are sending a reminder to drivers to be careful when traveling nearby.

“These are people. These are somebody’s loved ones. We want them to go home safe,” Joey Hopkins, NCDOT chief operating officer said.

Crews say they don’t plan on any major slow-downs along the route.

“Most of the job will be done offline, so to speak,” Chris Martin, Branch Civil project executive said. “So we’re going from two to four lanes. We’ll build the new two lanes and then move traffic over there and redo the old two.”

Once complete, county and state leaders hope it will open all of Eastern Carolina to more opportunities.

“Economic development depends on transportation and this is one of the links that’s been missing,” Waters said.

Work should be complete by the summer of 2026.

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