Stedman, N.C. — Progress is painful for some small towns in Cumberland and Sampson counties, which have been bypassed by new portions of N.C. Highway 24.

The state Department of Transportation is widening N.C. 24 from two to four lanes from Fayetteville to Clinton, and the work includes creating bypasses to speed traffic around Stedman, Autryville and Roseboro.

“I think it hurt all of our businesses here in Stedman,” said Jay Johnson, who grew up in town and now owns the Stedman Soda Shop.

The shop has been in business since the 1940s, but it was empty during Thursday’s lunch hour.

“(It’s) absolutely scary,” Johnson said. “You get something going real well, and as soon as everything’s going real well, there’s always a major speed bump in the road.”

Dan Hayes, who owns the drug store across the street, had to put a sign out by the bypass to remind people he’s still open for business in town.

“We just need to let people know Stedman’s still here,” Hayes said. “You can bypass us, but it’s still here.”

The highway, which opened two months ago, has not only been hard on the drug store’s bottom line, it’s also created confusion for some longtime residents, he said.

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