Are we there yet?
For the $100 million Military Cutoff Road Extension that’s been in the works since 1999, the answer is yes.
A drive from the Mayfaire area in Wilmington to a new exit on Interstate 140 in Porters Neck, past commercial construction projects and the buzzing of activity from existing homes, stores and restaurants, took about 20 minutes Thursday morning.
But on the way back, the first cars to traverse the newly opened extension were back at Mayfaire in about eight minutes.
Jason Swain, a Wilmington-based developer who is working on a major mixed-use project on Military Cutoff Road and an apartment development on 40 acres in Hampstead, said he’s personally excited about the extension opening, but it's also a path forward for the community.
“I was thinking about how long these projects take, and then when they're finally done, what a big economic impact it has on our area,” Swain said as he stood on the new road Thursday. Swain, of Swain & Associates, had joined officials with the N.C. Department of Transportation and local and state elected leaders to mark the extension’s opening.
“Right now, with all the development that's happening in Wilmington, the more of these roads that we can get open, the better," Swain said before speeches began. "It just provides quicker transportation around town and more connectivity, which is what everybody wants.”
Chad Kimes, NCDOT engineer for the Wilmington region, said the extension is part of a larger journey.
“For the first time in the history of where we stand, we will have a second major access route going north and south,” he said, addressing the crowd from a podium erected for the extension celebration. “That's huge for this area. And this is step one. Step two is under construction as we speak up in Hampstead. Step three will be under construction in less than two years.”
Kimes was referring to the two phases of the Hampstead Bypass, a corridor that will help traffic flow around the burgeoning, unincorporated Pender County community of Hampstead.
The state’s newly appointed secretary of transportation, Joey Hopkins, told the onlookers, “What you see in front of you is not a DOT project. It's a project that was born from the community. The actual [Military Cutoff Road Extension] project was born many, many years ago. I think it was funded about 10 years ago. But it takes a team, almost an army, to do something like this.
“From the time it first first becomes a line on the map to what you see today, there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears from DOT employees, consultants, contractors, elected officials, staff and others from other entities and our partners, and I want to thank each and everybody that had a part in that.”
The extension’s significance goes beyond its physical connection, Hopkins said.
“People in southeastern North Carolina will see the economic benefits from this project,” Hopkins said. “Along with other projects… this new project will give companies better access to our ports. And it's a great example of how our State Transportation Improvement Program has been benefiting people who live, work, shop and visit this area.”
Emma Dill - Nov 27, 2023
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