12/15/04 — U.S. 117 traffic light at Dudley meant to be temporary, overpass planned

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U.S. 117 traffic light at Dudley meant to be temporary, overpass planned

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 15, 2004 1:59 PM

DUDLEY -- A stoplight recently installed on U.S. 117 is only meant to be temporary, says a highway traffic engineer. But temporary could be a long time.

Andy Brown, engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, says an overpass is intended for the intersection, but it has not been funded.

The light at the intersection with O'Berry Road angered county commissioners after it had gone up without their knowledge. The commissioners were concerned that adding stoplights to U.S. 117 would hinder traffic. But they changed their minds last week after hearing reports of traffic accidents. They said they would still push for an overpass.

Brown started studying the intersection at U.S. 117 and O'Berry Road in response to residents' safety concerns, he said.

The DOT did a traffic count and found that there have been a lot of accidents with cars pulling out in traffic and being hit on the side. "Those are pretty severe," Brown said.

The Georgia Pacific plant and a couple of schools are in the area, he added, "and school buses and log trucks don't mix."

The engineers tried different things before considering a stoplight. The Department of Transportation put up new signs, installed pavement markings and a flashing light. The stoplight was a last resort, Brown said.

"We anticipate it's going to be a temporary measure," he said. "We're hoping to put in an interchange or a grade separation."

An interchange would be an overpass with access to U.S. 117. A grade separation would be an overpass that connects the east and west lanes of O'Berry Road, but there would no longer be access to U.S. 117 from O'Berry Road.

Brown said the DOT has the land to build the overpass. "It's a matter of making it a priority and getting the money for the overpass or interchange," he said.

DOT officials have been supportive of an overpass, Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said today, but "the problem is funding." The DOT has not given the county any idea as to when or if the construction could be funded.

The Wayne County Transportation Committee will meet Jan. 6 and will likely discuss the situation then, Smith said.

Brown said DOT engineers are getting ready to do a study of the entire stretch of U.S. 117 from the fairgrounds at U.S. 13 to the Duplin County line. They're already studying U.S. 70, he said, and U.S. 117 will be next.

"We're trying to maintain the integrity of 117," he said. "It's more of a freeway facility, and we don't want to clutter it up with unnecessary traffic signals. ... The signal is not a final measure. We want to maintain the progression on 117. It's a heavily traveled corridor."