If you’re a soldier you’ve probably figured out how to get to work at Fort Bragg and home again each day, despite the new system of roads. But, if you haven’t driven to Fort Bragg or Spring Lake from Fayetteville in a while, you’ll likely get lost. Take it from this reporter! I’ve lived in Fayetteville for 50 years. I’m impressed with the new system of limited access highways and overpasses that have sprung up around Fort Bragg. And we all know why.
For decades the Army has lobbied state government for a faster, direct route to I-95 so officials can move mechanized units more quickly to North Carolina seaports. Since 911, the need has been more urgent, and, the state has accelerated its road building in the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg area. The future I-295, also known as the Outer Loop, is now open from I-95 to Fort Bragg. Construction continues along the corridor, and by Christmas it should extend all the way to the All American Expressway. State DOT officials believe at that point, the federal Department of Transportation will allow the state to officially designate the loop as I-295.
But, I digress! I decided to see if I could traverse the new system of roads without getting lost (keep in mind I should know my way around). I chose to take an easy route during the pre-dawn hours when most soldiers go to work. I knew Bragg Boulevard had been closed, and that I’d have to turn onto the Airborne and Special Operations Highway to get over to Murchison Road. No problem. So far so good. I was looking for signs that would direct me to Randolph Street, a main entrance to post. I ignored getting off the highway at Honeycutt Road. Big mistake … I ended up in Spring Lake.
I did a U-turn at Spring Avenue and headed back toward post. Someone who hadn’t been here in a while would be surprised to see Bragg Boulevard no longer exists as you leave Spring Lake. Road construction along N.C. 87 in town sends traffic directly to the new Murchison Road. As I left town, I was still looking for Randolph Street. I noticed many of the cars ahead of me were turning right onto a long ramp so I followed. It was not marked. That was at 6:43 a.m. Three lanes of one-way traffic stalled along the ramp. Hundreds of cars were at a dead stop, occasionally inching forward. Half an hour later, I crossed Bragg Boulevard and realized I was on Randolph Street. No signs anywhere!
I turned around at the gate and headed back toward Fayetteville. I took the next exit onto well-marked Honeycutt Road. Signs indicated a welcome center. Traffic wasn’t nearly as bad and before long I reached the Honeycutt gate. I asked the M.P. where the welcome center was. He said I’d have to go to the All American gate across town…that there is no welcome center on Honeycutt, despite what the signs said.
I wondered about the contradiction and why so many other signs were vague or non-existent. So I asked. “Thank you so much for your observations,” said N.C. DOT Division 6 Engineer Greg Burns. “I will ask our staff to investigate and coordinate with Fort Bragg staff on ideas to improve signing,” he added.