12/15/06 — Senator asks state to erect sign pointing motorists to Goldsboro

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Senator asks state to erect sign pointing motorists to Goldsboro

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 15, 2006 1:45 PM

State Sen. John Kerr is asking the Department of Transportation to consider putting more signs on U.S. 117 north directing motorists to Goldsboro.

The new four-lane highway between Goldsboro and Wilson opened this year and has become a popular route between Wayne County and Raleigh, with drivers turning west onto U.S. 264.

But eastbound drivers can get confused about which exit to take to get back to Wayne.

Kerr said he has heard complaints from a number of people and has written Secretary of Transportation Lyndo Tippett about the problem.

Drivers should see improvements in the next month, Kerr said this week.

Sid Tomlinson, the Department of Transportation's assistant Division 4 traffic engineer, said officials also will erect a Goldsboro exit sign at its intersection with U.S. 70, to remind southbound drivers of the impending exit.

Tomlinson said engineers initially believed a sign was unnecessary because drivers were already in the city limits.

The U.S. 117-264 route represents a longer route between Goldsboro and Raleigh. But Kerr said drivers are choosing the route because of heavy traffic and the number of stoplights on U.S. 70.

According to a 2002 DOT traffic volume study, more than 50,000 vehicles use the U.S. 70 each day.

Kerr said he believes some of the traffic issues along U.S. 70 should be alleviated when the transportation department completes the U.S. 70 bypass in Clayton.

Construction on the bypass began in June 2005 to build a 10.8-mile, four-interchange, fully controlled access highway around Clayton. The project was initially expected to take four years to finish, but construction crews have already completed more than half the work, Division 4 resident engineer Kevin Bowen said. Contractors had expected only 20 percent of the project to be completed by this point.

Wayne County Commissioner Atlas Price, who frequently drives to Raleigh, said the fact that there are fewer stops is the reason he takes the northern route.

"It's 10 miles farther, but it takes 30 minutes off your time. You don't have to worry about stop lights," Price said. "Once you get on (U.S.) 117, you can set your speedometer at 70 and you don't have to slow down unless you get caught up in traffic. I went once and I haven't done 70 since. It's too much of a hassle with the lights and cars crossing over the intersections," Price said.

According to a July 2005 U.S. 70 Access Management Study, the 134-mile section of the highway between Clayton and Morehead City contains almost 60 traffic lights, or an average of one stoplight every two miles. The corridor also has 264 full median openings that could be converted to stoplights.

Reducing the number of stoplights along U.S. 70 between Raleigh and coast has been a priority of eastern lawmakers for years. A series of bypasses is expected to permit high-speed traffic but the work is only in its planning stages for the most part.

To speed up with work and to coordinate efforts, municipal and county officials along the U.S. 70 corridor have been working together for almost the past year to convert U.S. 70 into something similar. Representatives of Goldsboro, Kinston, New Bern, Havelock and Morehead City and Wayne, Lenoir, Jones, Craven and Carteret counties have worked with DOT officials and consultant Kimley-Horn to determine what can be done to improve the highway. Building a new freeway would cost an estimated $1 billion, so the group has been pushing for spot improvements to the existing corridor.

The Clayton U.S. 70 bypass is an example of a spot improvement that should allow motorists coming from or going to I-40 to avoid the hassle of Clayton's stoplights, Kerr noted.

A smaller example of a spot improvement is the construction of a directional crossover at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Beston Road east of Goldsboro that began in mid-November. Depending on the weather, construction should be done between February and March, Division 3 Engineer Tim Little said. Although a directional crossover is built primarily for safety, it also should allow motorists to travel through that intersection faster.

The projected $300,000 project is designed to control which way drivers turn at an intersection and limit the points where vehicles can collide. For example, if an eastbound driver on the four-lane reaches a major intersection, that driver could turn left off of the four-lane onto a side road. But a driver coming from the side road could not turn left onto the four-lane. A concrete barrier would force the driver to turn right until he or she reaches a left-turn lane where he or she could make a U-turn. Such a crossover already exists at the intersection of Piney Grove Church Road and U.S. 70 East.