Anderson, Lancaster honored for I-795 work
By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 23, 2012 1:46 PM
Andy Anderson, above, looks over a highway sign in his honor that will be erected along Interstate-795 during a ceremony held at the Wayne County Courthouse Monday. Anderson and former Congressman Martin Lancaster were key players in turning U.S. 117 in Wayne County to interstate standards. Both Anderson and Lancaster, below right, will have a sign honoring them along the highway.
Two men credited with being the driving force behind a four-laned U.S. 117 between Goldsboro and Wilson and securing its designation as Interstate-795 Monday morning sought to move the spotlight on to the many others whom they said played major roles as well.
But the morning belonged to former Wayne County commissioner Andy Anderson and former congressman and state representative Martin Lancaster as signs naming sections of I-795 in their honored were unveiled during a ceremony at the Wayne County courthouse.
The stretch of road from just south of the Pikeville-Princeton Road northward five miles to the vicinity of the Wayne/Wilson county line has been named the W. Andy Anderson Freeway.
The section of road from near the I-795 and U.S. 70 interchange northward approximately five miles has been named the H. Martin Lancaster Freeway.
Speaking on behalf of county commissioners, Commissioner Jack Best recalled the first time that Anderson had told him he wanted to see an interstate linking Goldsboro and Wilson.
"I said, 'OK,'" Best said. "Not knowing Andy at that time, I scratched my head and went back to work."
Best recalled how later when he attended state Department of Transportation meetings that state officials always wanted to know if Anderson would be coming. Best said when he told them no that the state officials said, 'Thank God. He is worrying the hell out of us. You can't get rid of him."
"He gets on a project, and he just stays on it and stays on it," Best said. "Basically if you want something done, give it to Andy. He has been good for this county.
"Martin is one of those guys who has been in a lot of jobs. He has done really well in every single one of them. And I am sure Andy bothered the hell out of you. Without Martin, 795 could not have been done. We could not have gotten it without someone in the Legislature."
State Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti said that Anderson and Lancaster both contributed greatly to the project.
Conti said he had not known much about Anderson over the years, but that every time he heard about him, Anderson was working on the road.
"I heard it from people all across eastern North Carolina, 'That Andy Anderson won't give up,'" Conti said. "You stayed with it until we got the job done."
Conti said he had known Lancaster for years, including Lancaster's time in Congress.
"I have known him to be very strong for 795," Conti said. "I remember when he got money in the budget to widen 117. He talked to me at that time and said, 'You know we are building this road that could become an Interstate.'
"I was working in Washington, D.C. at that time, and when I came back to North Carolina in 2001, Martin said, 'You know we are building that road.' As soon as it was done, Martin called and said, 'You know we should go after that designation.' I said, 'I know Martin.' He stayed on it. He stayed on me. He stayed on DOT."
Anderson said that he did not deserve the credit for I-795. It should be shared by Wayne, Wilson and Duplin counties as well as the municipalities along the highway's route, the DOT and the many others who worked for it, he said.
"It takes teamwork," he said. "You cannot do it alone. Without their moral and financial help the project may have never happened. When I asked Wayne County commissioners for financial help their replay was, 'We will match you dollar for dollar, no limit' -- I don't think they thought I could do it at the time.
"I don't know that I ever dreamed this project would take as fast and successful that it did. Fellow commissioners, did you get your money's worth?"
Anderson also thanked Lancaster for his "monumental support."
After retiring from the Air Force, Anderson said he decided to devote his time to volunteering in the community instead of starting a new career. He said he looked for an area where he could use his skills and discovered that a 1930s plan had been developed to four-lane U.S. 117.
Through a non-profit organization he started, Anderson was able to raise $58,000 in the 1980s. Most was spent on an environmental study and more on an economic development study by East Carolina University.
"Here for me today is very special occasion," Lancaster said. "It is for me a very, very important day. I am very happy to share this day with Andy Anderson because no one has worked harder on 795 than Andy Anderson. He is certainly deserving of this recognition.
"The only way it could have been better if we could have divided the road up into smaller pieces as Sen. Henson Barnes and John Kerr and my longtime friend and former law partner, Rep. Philip Baddour, could have a piece of it, too, because they were critically a part of it and this road being completed at a time when they had a significant influence in the Legislature."