12/24/06 — Business owners decry changes at U.S. 70, Beston Road crossing

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Business owners decry changes at U.S. 70, Beston Road crossing

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 24, 2006 2:21 AM

Business owners at the intersection of U.S. 70 bypass and Beston Road say state plans to make the crossing safer will cost them money and create more traffic problems.

Store owners and farmers in the neighborhood say they wanted a stop light for the intersection. State engineers decided to build a directional crossover instead.

The crossover will not permit traffic on Beston Road to cross directly over the bypass. Cars and trucks will instead have to go down U.S. 70 and make a U-turn before coming back to cross.

"They might fix the problem here, but it's just going to create more problems down the road or somewhere else," farmer Thomas Uzzell said.

Work on the project started last month and it is expected to be finished by early spring. Residents of the area had asked highway officials for years to help find a way to reduce the number of accidents at the intersection. Several people have been killed in accidents there. But the crossover is not the answer, the business owners said.

David Benson also farms in the area. He owns tobacco fields on both sides of U.S. 70. During his busiest times of the year, Benson said, he has 40 large trailers carrying tobacco and equipment back and forth across the highway. The trailers are difficult to maneuver through a U-turn, he said, and will likely slow down traffic and possibly cause more accidents.

Benson said the changes also will slow fire and rescue vehicles.

"This affects people from Seven Springs to Coker's Mill. It's splitting people from their homes and churches. It's a problem for school buses, too," Benson said.

Ray Hall owns and operates Pappy's military surplus store. He said petitioners thought they would get a stop light.

"Those people in Raleigh that are headed to the beach -- it might save them two minutes on their trip and they only have to deal with it once a year," Hall said. "We'll have to deal with this every day.

"The county commissioners and the (Department of Transportation) don't care about what the citizens want and need. We've told them we're against it, but they don't care. This is going to hurt us all," Hall said.

Handy Mart owner Judson Pope also said he would prefer a stoplight.

"With a convenience store, the idea is to intercept traffic. You want them coming in slower, so businesses like mine like stoplights," Pope said. "Why do they want more people to speed through Wayne County?"

County and state officials have been working for years to improve traffic flow on U.S. 70 between Raleigh and the coast. Long-range plans call for the construction of new sections of the four-lane highway to speed traffic and reduce congestion. In the meantime, they have tried to reduce the number of accidents along the existing road. Erecting more stop lights at intersections has not been a priority. Politicians and highway officials have sought other answers. The 134-mile stretch of highway between Clayton and Morehead City already has about 60 stoplights.

Highway officials estimate that 50,000 vehicles a day go through the intersection at Beston Road.