ELIZABETHTOWN — Last week, during the Board of Commissioners’ “matters of interest to commissioners,” a simple request could have a tremendous, positive affect on Bladen County.
Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson asked County Manager to fashion a letter to U.S. Congressman Robert Pittenger asking that he support federal funding to extend N.C. 87 through the county and link up with U.S. 74.
“Robert Pittenger asked for our support in making U.S. 74 an interstate,” Peterson said. “I thought, if we are talking about growing Bladen, then we need N.C. 87 to become four lane. So, while it appears he wants us to help, then he needs to help us grow Bladen by four-laning N.C. 87.”
N.C. 87 now runs from the Cumberland County line through Tar Heel, Dublin and Elizabethtown — eanding at the Elizabethtown Industrial Park/Airport, where N.C. 87 meets East Broad Street.
There was a time, Peterson said, that the North Carolina Department of Transportation had money in the budget to finish N.C. 87 to U.S. 74, but it never materialized. He added the county has spoken with Drew Cox, the regional engineer for NCDOT, about extending N.C. 78, but it’s been several years since the conversation had potential.
But now, Peterson said, would be a good time to revive those talks.
“Bladen has so much to offer,” he added. “We have lots of vacant land on 87 and 211. We have natural gas and a railroad on N.C. 211. We have county water down both highways. We have the river on 87. It will make traveling from Wilmington to any destination better, quicker and easier. Houses will be built. Businesses will be build to support communities and travel.”
Beyond the local potential for housing and business development, a four-lane N.C. 87 to U.S. 74 will have positives beyond Bladen County.
“It will have a great impact on Southeast North Carolina,” Peterson offered. “If we could get N.C. 87 four-laned all the way to U.S. 74, it would give Bladen a gateway to the ports and other four-lane roads, which would open the doors for economic growth in Bladen.
“I think this would be the shot in the arm we need to grow Bladen,” he added.
Peterson knows getting the funding for the project is a long-shot, but said it’s worth fighting for.
”At the rate we are going it will never happen,” he said. “But, If we could get federal support, the state might put it back in the DOT budget. We must continue to keep Bladen opportunities in front of all elected officials and state agencies.
”If we are to grow Bladen we need help from the federal and state government,” he added. “People in Bladen deserve this opportunity. “