03/04/05 — Highway officials may restrict access to U.S. 70

View Archive

Highway officials may restrict access to U.S. 70

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 4, 2005 2:12 PM

State transportation officials are considering closing medians and intersections along U.S. 70 to try to speed up highway traffic and eliminate accidents.

Should the proposal proceed, several Wayne County intersections would be closed or redesigned over the next two to three years. Two of the changes would make it more difficult for Walnut Creek residents to get onto U.S. 70 West.

The N.C. Department of Transportation is also considering bridging Oak Forest Road, at Parkeast industrial park, over the highway to eliminate that stoplight.

New restrictions on driveways are possible. Some existing properties could be forced to share driveways with their neighbors.

In a sense, DOT would be retrofitting the existing U.S. 70 as much as possible to freeway conditions.

"This is just a concept. We are not ready to implement it yet," DOT Division Engineer Jim H. Trogdon told city and county officials Thursday.

But the state needs to take immediate steps to stop the proliferation of accidents and stoplights along the highway, Trogdon said. There are currently 102 unsignaled intersections and median openings along U.S. 70 in Johnston and Wayne counties, all of which have the potential to need signals.

"Once stoplights are there, they are difficult to remove," he said.

DOT contracted with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., a Raleigh consulting firm, to study U.S. 70 through Johnston and Wayne counties with three goals -- to eliminate accidents, to ease congestion and to reduce the need for new traffic signals and possibly eliminate existing ones.

The state is also considering making similar changes in Lenoir and other eastern counties to cover the entire stretch of U.S. 70 from Raleigh to Morehead City.

Kimley-Horn employees were shocked to find out how many places motorists could make left turns onto the busy highway, said Michael Rutkowski. More than 100 in a 46-mile stretch is "an unbelievable number," he said.

This leads to motorists being surprised by traffic entering the highway or slowing to make turns, Rutkowski said. Up to 65 percent of all accidents along U.S. 70 are rear-end collisions, but that number is even higher in some spots. At Oak Forest Road, rear-enders account for 85 percent of accidents.

"Coming off freeway conditions to the west, people just don't expect there to be a stoplight there," Rutkowski said.

Kimley-Horn has recommended DOT close 23 unsignaled intersections and median openings in Johnston and Wayne counties over the next several years. The state would be seeking to have these crossings no closer than 2,000 feet; some in Goldsboro are less than 600 feet apart.

Another 44 highway median openings would be redesigned to restrict drivers from crossing the highway or making unsafe turns.

The proposals include closing completely the U.S. 70 median at O'Berry Center Road and also near Camden Park Drive, close to the WGBR radio studios.

The state would also close the highway's entrances to services road between William Street and Wayne Memorial Drive, which primarily serve hotels.

Several openings would be redesigned only to allow left-turns off the highway, not onto it. These include Martin Street, Edgar Street, Westwood Drive, in front of Wilber's Barbecue, Bluebird Lane, Long's Plant Farm Road, Uzzell Road and Beston Road.

Kimley-Horn is recommending the median at Lake Wackena Road be closed and the Walnut Creek Drive intersection be designed to prohibit left turns onto the highway. Those changes would require village residents to go east on U.S. 70 and then U-turn to get onto U.S. 70 West. The state could design a turnaround lane to make the U-turns easier, though.

Kinley-Horn's preliminary recommendations were presented Thursday to Goldsboro and Wayne County officials, including several of the county commissioners.

DOT is also planning to public information meetings over the next four-six weeks to explain the proposal and to get public input. A schedule will be announced later.