02/14/11 — Options weighed for traffic jams on Berkeley

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Options weighed for traffic jams on Berkeley

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 14, 2011 1:46 PM

Realigning Royall Avenue and Central Heights Road would be the best but most expensive solution to the confusing dog-leg intersection of the two roads at North Berkeley Boulevard.

But until the money -- an estimated $8 million -- is available, Goldsboro might have to look at other less-expensive options, members of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization said at a meeting Thursday.

Those members, particularly MPO Technical Advisory Committee Chairman and Goldsboro Mayor Pro Tempore Chuck Allen, also sought to make it clear that no final decision has been made about what changes might be made.

Regardless of what decision is reached, it is not expected to have an effect on the amount of traffic on the busy street, said James Upchurch of the state Department of Transportation.

Upchurch said different models indicate that much of the traffic would be shifted around on different roads only to find its way back onto Berkeley.

One option, that Allen again emphasized has not been approved, is to close Central Heights Road at Berkeley and use other streets to move traffic onto Berkeley.

Another option would be to make Central Heights Road a "right-in" and "right-out" only road. But that would only allow the elimination of one phase of the traffic lights that form the bottleneck at the intersection, Allen pointed out.

Upchurch also said changes in traffic signals suggested during the MPO Technical Coordinating Committee (staff) meeting earlier in the morning are another option.

"We have a traffic engineer who is coming in a month or two," Allen said. "He is going to be responsible for the (new computerized) traffic lights. He is going to have the software where you can do the lights study. Let's let him do that then come back in a couple of months and see what that generates.

"I think it goes back to the same thing James said. We did Beston Road (where it crosses U.S. 70 near Walnut Creek) and we know it was the right thing to do. History has shown it was the right thing to do. We did Florida Street (closed access from U.S. 70). History has shown that was probably the right thing to do. It is the same scenario here. It is not going to be popular, but it is probably the right thing to do."

Upchurch said that even aligning Royall Avenue and Central Heights Road is not going to make the traffic congestion problem go away.

"We are just trying to design it to make it more efficient," Allen said.

In other business, members began looking at revising the MPO transportation 2009-15 needs list.

The revision is needed because the top three projects on the list pertain to completion of the new U.S. 70 Bypass. The state has accelerated that project so that its completion is now set for 2016.

Along with shifting projects on the list, Wayne County Planner Connie Price, who is chairman of the Technical Coordinating Committee, suggested several additional projects.

Price suggested that projects that are linked to the new U.S. 70 should be moved up on the list.

Allen said the MPO did not need to lose sight of trying to reopen Tommy's Road. He said that DOT officials might say the MPO is "barking up the wrong tree and you are not going to get it done."

That might be the case, he said.

"But I guess we are not quite ready to give up on it yet," he said.

That road was cut in half by the new bypass and has been dead ended on both sides of the bridge that crosses a swampy area.

The issue seems "more political" than anything, he said.

However, Tim Little, DOT Division 4 operations engineer, said it was tied to environmental issues. Little expressed concern that changing Tommy's Road now could cause problems with the bypass. Allen said he was not talking about now, but waiting until the bypass is completed.

"The goal we need now is to keep it open through the whole project," Little said. "I mean not to take out the culvert there. That is our goal right now. That is our fight."

"That's right with the ultimate plan that when the project is done that we try to do something different," Allen said.

The flip side of the coin, even if that can happen, is that the area will pay for it later, Little said.

"We will pay for it in another way," he said. "Once you agree to something in those permits and come back later and say, 'You know, I really want to change that.' Then you will pay later on some other project."

Allen said it could be argued there was little local input on the decision to cut the road in half and that he doesn't think residents understood that was what was going to happen.

He said that based on conversations with Little, it seems that the feeling is people will use the bypass and reopening Tommy's Road won't be an issue.

"But I don't want to take it off the table just in case," Allen said. "We need to protect it. Right now the culvert is there, but the plans are to tear it out. Once they tear it out it probably isn't going back."

The needs list projects and their suggested new ranking are:

* Wayne Memorial Drive upgrade from New Hope Road to new U.S. 70 Bypass

* Berkeley Boulevard widening from New Hope Road to Hood Swamp Road

* U.S. 13 North upgrade from Hood Swamp Road to Greene County Line

* U.S. 117 (North William Street) upgrade from U.S. 117-U.S. 70 Bypass to Belfast Road

* Central Heights Road realignment at Berkeley Boulevard and Royall Avenue

* New Hope Road widen from Central Heights Road to Millers Chapel Road

* Interchange at U.S. 70 East and Oak Forest Road

* New interchange at U.S. 70 and N.C. 111

* Ash Street (U.S. 70 Business) upgrade from Berkeley Boulevard east to existing U.S. 70 Bypass

* U.S. 117 (N.C. 55 to U.S. 117) new relocation south of U.S. 70 including new interchange at N.C. 581 (Ash Street)

* Interchange at U.S. 117 South and O'Berry Center Road.

Price also suggested realigning Cuyler Best Road and Hare Road at New Hope Road.

However, Price was told there are plans for development in that area that probably would happen much sooner than any road work would.

Another possible addition would be Mark Edwards Road-Parkstown Road improvements from New Hope Road to the U.S. 70 Bypass.

Price said he had suggested that since the new bypass will have an interchange at Parkstown Road.

The DOT will hold meetings in March and April to explain the road prioritization process.

The MPO will be asked to submit 15 new projects, said Jennifer Collins of the city's planning department. Projects already in the system will remain there, she said.

The projects will be scored and returned to the MPO so that "we will have an idea where we are," she said.

The MPO has through October to rank the projects. The state rankings will be released in late fall.