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NCDOT: Hampstead Bypass Construction To Begin In March

By Johanna F. Still, posted Dec 6, 2021
Funding issues have led to a change in the timeline for the Hampstead Bypass. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)

The N.C. Department of Transportation is chipping away at its right-of-way acquisition process for the delayed Hampstead Bypass. 

The department intends to begin construction on the first northern phase of the project in March, according to an NCDOT spokesperson.

Progress on the expansive project, first planned in 2005, was stalled by NCDOT’s cash-strapped crisis last year. Though it has since recovered, NCDOT’s financial woes were driven by a cascade of settlements prompted by the Map Act, which the state Supreme Court rendered unconstitutional in 2016. 

The Hampstead Bypass was among projects that used NCDOT’s corridor-freezing technique to stall development progress, resulting in a settlement with Jamestown LP in October 2020. A new rule included in the new state budget retroactively shields the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization from Map Act-related claims. 

Monday afternoon, the Pender County Board of Commissioners are scheduled to vote to offload a half-acre unused utility parcel to NCDOT for the bypass project for $205,825. It will help NCDOT get closer to the 135 total parcels it must obtain control of in its first northern phase of the project, with 100 acquired thus far, costing $86 million. This portion will connect N.C. 210 to an area on U.S. 17 north of Hampstead. The acquisition process first began in March 2018. 

This portion's right-of-way costs are up 261% as of June from the initial 2018 estimate, from $26 million to $94 million, according to figures shared by NCDOT. Right-of-way costs on the second southern portion, connecting U.S. 17 to N.C. 210 with a tie-in off Sidbury Road, have more than doubled, from $16 million to $35 million.

Construction costs for the northern portion rose 33% between January 2020 and June 2021, currently estimated at $156 million. The southern portion's construction cost estimate rose 21% from 2019, with the latest estimate at $144 million. In all, the total project cost, including right-of-way and construction, has ballooned from $278 million to $429 million. 

The Map Act ruling “has significantly, raised right-of-way acquisition costs for certain urban loop projects in our state, including the Hampstead Bypass,” NCDOT spokesperson Andrew Barksdale wrote in an email Monday. 

An official map for the bypass was selected in 2014, with construction initially planned to begin in 2020.

“We are seeing higher construction costs all across the state due to materials and labor costs,” Barksdale wrote. “Inflation, like we are seeing at the gas pump and grocery aisle, is also affecting the construction industry this year.”

NCDOT is planning a groundbreaking ceremony with Pender County commissioners in mid-to-late February, according to Barksdale, and anticipates awarding the northern portion contract in January. This portion should wrap by 2027, according to the latest estimates. 

Construction on the southern portion is slated to begin in late 2026, with the total project projected to be complete by 2030. Of the 25 parcels required for this portion, NCDOT has acquired eight, spending $4.5 million so far.

Both portions of the project are funded. Learn more about the Hampstead Bypass on NCDOT's project page

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