02/18/13 — Officials: Access control key to highway's future

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Officials: Access control key to highway's future

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 18, 2013 1:46 PM

Without proper access management, traffic problems that plague Wayne Memorial Drive and Berkeley Boulevard will spread across Goldsboro and its urbanized area, transportation consultant Stephen Greene told the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization last week.

Greene is vice president of Ramey Kemp & Associates, which is assisting the MPO in planning. He said that as money becomes harder to find, it will become more challenging to perform corridor-long highway improvement projects, which means that access management will play a key role in keeping the traffic moving on Goldsboro's busier roads.

Ramey Kemp & Associates is assisting Holland Consulting Planners with drafting the Goldsboro Urbanized Area Comprehensive Plan that the MPO reviewed last week. The draft plan may be viewed online at http://plangoldsboro.org.

The MPO lacks authority to zone property, or to tell people what they can do with their property, MPO members noted. However, the plan was needed so that a transportation plan could be drafted, they said.

"There is a lot of attention paid in this plan to access management area wide, not just on Wayne Memorial," said consultant Dale Holland. "Access management is crucial to the future of Goldsboro and the urbanized area."

The plan looks at the Wayne Memorial Drive corridor from just south of the ramps at the new U.S. 70 Bypass all the way to Country Day Road. Naturally, the traffic is heavier in the more urbanized area, Greene said.

"The biggest thing that we saw in here though was the amount of driveways," he said. "It improves as you go get farther away, but you get up the (U.S. 70 Bypass) interchange is where you are ultimately going to have your development pressure.

"The 2009 Long-Range Transportation Plan shows Wayne Memorial Drive becoming a four-lane divided highway, median-divided facility. The other things that can be done are limited driveway access for sites and/or greater space between signalized intersections."

There is a section of Wayne Memorial Drive where within 250 feet there are eight full-movement driveways, two of which are within 50 feet of a traffic signal, he said.

"It is just a very dangerous situation," he said. "Place driveways in appropriate locations. It is not appropriate to have driveways within 50 feet of signals. Developers will tell you that they want it, that they need it, and that they have to have it. But it is not a very safe situation."

Recommendations for Wayne Memorial Drive include a raised median to eliminate left turns into and out-of-site driveways, shared driveways, minimizing the number of signalized intersections per mile, and providing cross access, Greene said.

Greene said that he has worked with Havelock, where a median has been placed down U.S. 70.

"There was a revolution in Havelock when they told them they were getting a median," he said. "Everybody lost their minds. They have had one person who has complained saying it is affecting his business, but his business was already in trouble before the median went in.

"By and large people have come in saying they like it. There are a number of businesses that have come in and said it has improved their business."

Havelock also has a lot of driveways along that stretch, he said.

Greene said that 65 to 70 percent of his company's business is with developers

"A lot of times people will get upset about access management and medians, but the reality is for any developer they want people to be able to get into their sites," he said. "If you have traffic problems, if you have congestion problems, if you have access problems, they know that people cannot get in there, and they won't put their development there. They will go find another place that does not have those issues."

The key to future development is to have that in place, he said.

Wayne County Commissioner Joe Daughtery, a member of the MPO's decision-making Technical Advisory Committee, asked if a median was more friendly to development than a turning lane.

Greene said that if Daughtery was referring to a dedicated middle lane turn lane, then yes, the median was more development friendly. Middle turn lanes are an accident waiting to happen, he said, especially when looking at the driveways spacing on Wayne Memorial,.

"You have too many opportunities for people to be cutting across traffic and getting in that middle turn lane or coming out of driveways trying to come across," he said. "A median, when it is done right, and you have your planned median breaks where you can allow the traffic to cross, they work very well. Again, it goes back to planning."

Daughtery said it was great the U.S. 70 Bypass project had been moved up, but the concern is that traffic patterns have changed dramatically.

"They are going to get on the bypass and bypass all of our core businesses and end up in Lenoir County," he said. "That is going to be a loss of a lot of things to us and a big adjustment. We must make sure that we are not over regulating the development of our interchanges because we have to have that in a timely manner. We have got to push all of that up.

"We have got to go out and encourage that development because we are going to lose sales tax revenues. I just want to make sure we are not over-regulating for 30 years down the road, that we are making it user-friendly for developers to come here and develop those interchanges rapidly."

Greene said that developers want to know the rules up front.

"A lot of times they don't care what the rules are, as long as they are not so restrictive that it becomes too expensive for them to build," Greene said.

Access management also allows for better development, he pointed out.

Greene said that when the U.S. 264 Bypass at Knightdale was opened that businesses in that area said it was going to kill them.

Within six months of the bypass opening, the traffic on the old road was back to the level is was before the bypass was built, he said.