01/08/06 — Wayne County's worst intersections

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Wayne County's worst intersections

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on January 8, 2006 2:07 AM

Motorists in Wayne County have suspected the county has some intersections on the state's list for the most hazardous crossroads in North Carolina. Now, the state's Department of Transportation has confirmed their suspicions.

Seventeen of the top 20 accident-producing intersections in the county are in Goldsboro, according to state figures. In all but one of the 17 city intersections, a traffic light has been installed.

Four of the state's 28 most hazardous intersections are in Wayne County. The Department of Transportation, or DOT, has made safety improvements at three of them and plans to do so at the fourth. But there are many other intersections where residents and store employees say changes are needed.

A convenience store manager at one hazardous intersection says drivers are in too much of a hurry.

"All people have to do is to wait an extra 30 or 40 seconds to get across," she said.

The Wayne County intersection with the most collisions in the last four years is the area where the U.S. 70 bypass and North Berkeley Boulevard cross in Goldsboro. A total of 101 wrecks have occurred there since 2001.

Five other intersections with Berkeley Boulevard rank in the top 20, along with four others on the U.S. 70 bypass. The other top collision-producing intersections are along Ash Street with four and Spence Avenue with three.

The numbers did not surprise Maj. Mike Hopper, who supervises the Goldsboro Police Department's patrol division that investigates collisions.

A traffic light was installed this fall at another intersection that has been a pain for drivers for years but is not on either list -- Royall Avenue and Sunburst Drive. Several wrecks involving trains that parallel Royall Avenue have occurred there.

Hopper, like many other motorists, said he had avoided coming up Sunburst Drive from the Target store because of the long distance between the stopping point, the railroad and Royall Avenue.

Steven Lowry, an engineer with the DOT in Raleigh, says the state has produced a list of potentially hazardous intersections. The rankings are based on crash data -- the number and severity of collisions and the number of fatalities -- and any safety deficiency. He says the number of collisions could make or might not make an intersection potentially hazardous.

Haywood Daughtry, a DOT regional traffic engineer in Wilson, says crash frequency, severity and pattern figured into the formula with a high priority placed on those with fatalities and serious injuries. He says these intersections are studied and public input is obtained. A field study is conducted to determine how to solve the problem.

The intersection of N.C. 581 and Pikeville-Princeton Road, known as Pikes Crossroads, ranks as the state's 11th most hazardous intersection. A flasher that blinks on Pikeville-Princeton Road when a vehicle enters the intersection from N.C. 581 was installed in January 2004.

The flasher seems to have reduced the number of wrecks at the crossing, officials said.

Ranking 20th is the intersection of U.S. 70 East and Beston Road, where a child was killed in January 2005. Another serious collision occurred later that same day. The Highway Patrol's district office manager, who was going to her home in Kinston, was involved in wreck five days later. Drivers trying to cross U.S. 70 were at fault in the three crashes.

Employees at the Handy Mart convenience store at the intersection circulated a petition for a traffic light and submitted it to state Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne. Kerr, though, has been an outspoken critic of additional stoplights on the busy four-lane, divided highway between Raleigh and Morehead City. Because of numerous stoplights, Kerr says some drivers are bypassing Wayne County and finding other ways to reach the coast.

Daughtry says a directional crossover, similar to the one at U.S. 70 and Piney Grove Church Road, about a mile east of Beston Road at Dan Wise Chevrolet, will be installed. The device will stop Beston Road traffic from crossing U.S. 70. The one difference, Daughtry says, would be that drivers on Beston Road would be allowed to make left turns.

Northbound traffic wanting to cross U.S. 70 would have to turn right, go to the crossover at the Butcher Block store, make a U-turn, then come back up U.S. 70 and turn right again onto Beston Road. Southbound traffic would turn right, go to Walnut Creek Drive, make a U-turn, come back on U.S. 70 to Beston Road and turn right.

Beston Road is used by eastern Wayne County residents going north to Parkstown, Snow Hill and Greenville or south to Seven Springs and Mount Olive.

Daughtry says the crossover at Walnut Creek and Creekside drives may eventually be closed, too, despite protests from homeowners during a public hearing at Eastern Wayne High School.

Judson Pope, whose company operates the convenience store at the intersection, says he believes the store gets "a fair amount" of business from people crossing U.S. 70, "but on the flip side, it's a dangerous intersection with a lot of wrecks."

Pope says the store might miss early-morning customers coming from the Walnut Pointe subdivision that is off South Beston Road.

"If I had my druthers, I would want them to leave it open," he said of the crossing.

Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. T.C. McLeod says blocking the crossover could save lives and property, despite the inconvenience to some drivers.

"If the inconvenience means saving property and lives, then it's a good thing," he said. "That's what's wrong with society today. People are always in a hurry and don't want to be inconvenienced."

But the Handy Mart manager had a different opinion.

"Blocking it off isn't the answer," she said. "I don't have the knowledge of what they should do, but blocking it off isn't right. I'm afraid if they do it, traffic will be coming through our parking lot."

The manager says 80 percent of the wrecks are caused by negligence, people not waiting a few extra seconds to cross the highway.

"Tractor-trailers coming along the 70 would hit a bump and we'd hear it," she said. "That used to be the sound of a wreck, and we'd all come running to the door."

A new U.S. 70 bypass around Goldsboro and through most of Wayne County, including Beston Road, will not be finished for more than seven years, Daughtry says.

The 23rd most hazardous intersection on the DOT list is U.S. 117 and O'Berry Road, just west of Dudley. A traffic light was installed earlier this year over protests from some county officials, who wanted a cloverleaf-type interchange.

Dudley Volunteer Fire Chief Kendall Lee, whose department responds to collisions at the intersection, says the stoplight has led to more, not fewer, wrecks.

Ranking 28th is the intersection of Old Mount Olive and Genoa roads, just east of the Wayne County Fairgrounds. A stoplight was installed and left- and right-turn lanes were built on Old Mount Olive Road.

Intersections that rank lower than 100 do not get much attention from the DOT. Daughtry says a field study takes at least 16 hours and his office covers 28 eastern counties.

Convenience store employees at two intersections on N.C. 55 say they hope the DOT makes improvements there.

A clerk at the Friendly Mart at N.C. 55 and N.C. 111 says a traffic light has been needed for 10 years.

"There's traffic at 4 in the morning when I come to work," she said. "There have been five or six wrecks here in the last few months. People come in ask why there isn't a traffic light."

The intersection, though, ranks only 264th on the statewide list.

Daughtry says the traffic volume is not enough to put up a traffic light.

"We're trying to figure out what we can do," he said. "We've tried everything."

A little farther west, a clerk at O'Quinn's Variety Store at N.C. 55 and Camp Jubilee Road says she has not seen any wrecks because she works days.

She says most of the traffic collisions at the intersection occur on weekends or at night. She says many are caused by drunken drivers who ignore the blinker light and do not stop at the stop signs on Camp Jubilee Road.

The clerk says a traffic light would help. But the intersection ranks only 177th on the state list.

The only other intersection that ranks in the top 300 in Wayne County is U.S. 13 and Old Mount Olive Road at Mar Mac. It ranks 230th. A traffic light was installed there many years ago. But 71 collisions occurred there in the last five years. The total is the fifth-highest in the county.

The highest-ranking Goldsboro intersection on the most hazardous list is U.S. 13 and North George Street. It stands 406th.

When Daughtry was asked why the state would spend so much money for a new Goldsboro bypass and then continue to work on the existing U.S. 70, he says the same safety issues would remain on the old road, even after the bypass is completed.

He says the improvements are made with one idea in mind -- safety for the motoring public.