01/08/12 — Road plans to get look

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Road plans to get look

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 8, 2012 1:50 AM

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From left, traffic on N.C. 55 East, Zion Church Road and N.C. 403 all meet Friday afternoon at the roads' intersection about five miles east of Mount Olive.

MOUNT OLIVE -- A two-car wreck that claimed the life of a 79-year-old Faison woman in November was the latest in a series of 11 crashes, and the second fatality, over the past five years on N.C. 55 near the road's intersections with N.C. 403 and Zion Church Road, about five miles east of town.

Wayne County commissioners will have a public hearing Feb. 7 to look at options to improve safety at the crossroads.

Commissioners last May delayed scheduling a public hearing on the state's plans to close a section of Zion Church Road to allow state Department of Transportation officials time to talk with people in the Zion Church Road community.

That meeting was held several months ago, said Tim Little, DOT Division 4 operations engineer. Two options emerged.

The first would be to dead end Zion Church Road and pave a short section of Emmaus Church Road to allow access to N.C. 55 from Zion Church Road. The work would cost about $230,000.

The second, and more expensive option, would be to hook Zion Church Road into N.C. 55 about 800 feet from the existing intersection at a cost of about $254,000.

A third option, moving the Zion Church Road intersection further south on N.C. 403, was abandoned because of concerns it would cut through prime farmland.

The state last spring originally asked for the county's support of plans to abandon 200 feet of Zion Church Road at the intersection of N.C. 55 and N.C. 403. There are no residences along the 200 foot-stretch.

County approval is needed for the state to make the improvements.

"On secondary roads, we don't own any property," Little said. "We have right of way. We abandon maintenance on the section of road, and the county commissioners abandon the property and the property reverts back to the property owner. If we hook it, they will have to abandon more (than 200 feet)."

One local resident has offered to donate the land for the right of way for tying the road into N.C. 55. However, there is nothing in writing, Little said.

"The disadvantage of doing the hook, if we hook it, it creates another intersection on 55," Little said. "Anywhere you have an intersection on a primary road, that is where you have accidents.

"To us that creates another conflict on the roadway. So we have to measure the advantages and disadvantages of that. We are trying to remove one of the intersections and that would be the Zion Church Road leg -- that is the whole intent on what we want to do."

The decision will be made by DOT staff, he said.

The state will look at different factors including whether the changes create more traffic and how they could affect emergency vehicles getting to where they are needed, he said.

"That section of Emmaus Church Road is going to be paved anyway," Little said. "If it is the Emmaus Church Road, we will start earlier because we have funding secured for that. If it is the hook, we have to resubmit and it could be this summer. Emmaus Church this spring, that is easy.

"If we go with the option of hooking the road that is probably going to be put off because we have resubmit and get all our funding back because that is not within the scope of the project that we have."