Drivers say Center Street detour confusing
By John Joyce
Published in News on August 17, 2012 1:46 PM
A number of people have found out that the city is serious about motorists disobeying traffic signs at the intersection of Mulberry and Center streets. Goldsboro police say nearly two dozen drivers have been issued tickets this week for trying to get around the blockades that have been set up while work on the Streetscape project is under way.
Turning the wrong way on the Center Street circle and jumping barricades to avoid the detour caused by construction there will cost you, local drivers found out this week.
A high volume of traffic citations handed out downtown by Goldsboro police Monday raised quite a stir with operators and patrons of the local businesses anchored there.
Maj. Mike West of the Goldsboro Police Department's Traffic Division said at least 21 citations were handed out at the intersection of Center and Mulberry streets.
West could neither confirm nor deny reports from those ticketed who claimed the costs were as high as $282.
"Infractions included 'failure to obey traffic devices' and other charges," West said. "That would account for the variance in prices for the tickets issued."
The westbound lane of Mulberry Street at the point it intersects with Center Street has been closed since May due to construction related to Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp.'s Center Street Streetscape Project.
The eastbound lane has remained open, allowing for one-way traffic. Some drivers, though, have been skirting around the two "Road Closed" signs positioned along Mulberry Street as it approaches Center Street, ignoring too the more than 14 Bob's Barricades placed to prevent through-traffic. An erected fence that surrounds the construction site, and the many bulldozers and workers assembled within the fenced-in area, have also failed to deter violators.
"Safety was our main concern," City Manager Scott A. Stevens said.
Stevens said that a rise in the number of vehicles bypassing the closure signs and continuing to drive through the restricted area prompted him to ask Police Chief Jeff Stewart to ramp up police presence at the intersection.
In addition to the barricades and posted signs, the traffic light at the intersection is set to flash yellow, which drivers have indicated they thought meant "proceed with caution."
"It is confusing, but our only other option was to close the street completely," Stevens said. The city manager went on to say that, although Mulberry Street will be completely shut down at some point during the project, he wanted to protect the businesses there by leaving it open as long as possible.
Not all of the business owners feel protected.
Percy Royall, owner of Royall Barber Shop, 142 Center St., wonders why visitors aren't being encouraged to use the John Street parking lot adjacent to his business.
"I've been here 43 years and never seen it this bad," Royall said. He said a sign directing customers to the parking area that connects John and Center streets would be beneficial and clear up confusion caused by the detour.
The road closure has impacted at least one other long-standing Center Street business.
"It don't really make sense; they have one little old sign," said Walley Williams, proprietor of Goldsboro Furniture Store, located for 50 years on the northwest corner of Mulberry and Center streets. His employees witnessed the traffic stops also.
"They've been pulling them over left and right, two and three at a time," David Solomon said.
Williams and his workers have for months seen cars slip past the barricades and warning signs that are posted along the constructions zone. They have not seen any tickets issued prior to Monday. Williams said that he hasn't been seeing any customers either.
"I don't do any business. I was doing about $6,000 a week," said Williams, referring to the pre-construction patronage he has been accustomed to for decades.
"Now I'm doing $200."
Williams said he is thinking of calling it quits after a half-century, blaming City Hall and the Streetscape Project for what he says is "ruining downtown."
The Little Bank, which sits opposite the furniture store, felt the pinch Monday when numerous customers complained about the ticketing.
"People have been cautious going through there," said Roy Parker, bank manager.
According to Parker, the ticketing began about 10 a.m. Monday and continued after he left around 5 p.m. Although concerned that his customers felt they were treated unfairly Monday, Parker spoke highly of the construction workers and contractors working on the project site, saying that they have been very attentive to the bank's needs.
Unlike Williams, Parker has high hopes for the Streetscape project, which he says is "cleaning up the area."
Project Manager Josh Price seconded the city manager's safety concerns when speaking to the matter of drivers being ticketed for violating the road closure.
The section of roadway that remains open is narrow and visibility can be obstructed by cars parked on either side. Drivers heading the wrong way up the converted one-way street run the risk of being in the path of cars legally turning right from Center Street onto Mulberry Street.
"There has been concern for our guys working close to the fence as cars have been coming close to it," Price said.
In regard to the local businesses being impacted one way or another, either by the construction or the recent ticketing, Price declined to comment.