03/19/07 — Beston Road update

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Beston Road update

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 19, 2007 1:58 PM

Construction is nearly complete on the directional crossover at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Beston Road.

With the crossover's acceleration lanes open, drivers are using the new path, but nearby business owners and residents are waiting to see if the N.C. Department of Transportation's solution really will make the intersection safe.

"We are just in pause mode and looking at what's happening," Walnut Creek resident Gene Braswell said.

They aren't hoping for the worst, because they hope an accident or fatality doesn't happen, but the residents are waiting for what they believe is the inevitable.

"We're afraid someone will be seriously injured," said Ray Hall, owner of Pappy's Army and Navy. "I guess time will tell."

Nearly 100 accidents have been recorded at the intersection over the past few years, including an accident that killed a 6-year-old girl in January 2005.

Nearby residents tried lobbying the Wayne County commissioners, state transportation officials and engineers for a stoplight instead of a directional crossover. Many said the project would cut businesses off from customers, farmers from their land and emergency personnel from the scene of an accident.

State transportation officials chose a directional crossover instead of a stoplight because they said a crossover limits the number of potential points where an accident can occur.

The crossover doesn't allow vehicles to directly drive across U.S. 70 from either side of Beston Road. The project also prevents highway travelers from turning left onto Beston Road.

But drivers on both sides of Beston Road are allowed to turn left onto U.S. 70. Those drivers enter an acceleration lane before merging onto the left lane of the highway.

And that is where several close calls have already occurred, residents say.

The problem, they said, is that the westbound acceleration lane ends near the deceleration lane entrance to Walnut Creek. Since the project is a new design, many U.S. 70 travelers are not expecting traffic to merge from the left.

When farmer David Vinson's daughter called him recently, she was so rattled that she couldn't even speak. Someone trying to enter Walnut Creek didn't even notice when she merged onto the highway. The vehicle cut her off, and she barely avoided an accident, Vinson said.

If there had been an accident, nearby residents said they also fear that paramedics would not be able to get on the scene fast enough. Employees at Pappy's said they recently saw an ambulance pass the store on its way to North Beston Road. Since the ambulance couldn't turn at the road, the vehicle had to travel to the next available median near the Country Butcher Shop. Almost four minutes later, the ambulance arrived at Beston Road.

"It may not have been an emergency, but it could be one day," Hall said.

Residents are now wondering what more they can do to get the stoplight they have pleaded for. They tried a petition with more than 1,000 signatures, but that document was ignored, they said.

The people tried several meetings with state transportation officials and commissioners, but they said their pleas were not acknowledged.

Braswell said it is very difficult to successfully bring a lawsuit against the N.C. Department of Transportation, but the residents are considering all options.

And they are also considering what could happen when more farm equipment and beach travelers converge on U.S. 70 in the coming weeks.