RDC: One-way traffic has to go

Motorists confused by downtown’s one-way streets

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Amber Marcengill, owner of Rocking Trends Consignment Boutique on East Washington Street, was in the middle of a sentence about motorists’ confusion of the downtown area’s one-way streets when the driver of a red Ford sedan drove past the store — in the wrong direction.

Marcengill, a member of the Rockingham Downtown Corporation, was part of a discussion that took place Tuesday during the RDC’s regular monthly meeting. There, they listened to an update from member Neal Cadieu about his idea to approach city leaders about eliminating one-way traffic in certain areas and route big-truck traffic away from downtown.

Cadieu noted it’s an effort that might be more difficult than he first realized. Still, members seemed to agree it was an idea worth pursuing. Cadieu told RDC members that first he’d have to approach the city’s planning board. Then, if that board offers a favorable recommendation, the issue cold be addressed by City Council.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A motorist goes the wrong way on one-way East Washington Street Friday afternoon in downtown Rockingham. Members of the Rockingham Downtown Corporation are seeking City Council support to eliminate one-way traffic in the area.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A motorist goes the wrong way on one-way East Washington Street Friday afternoon in downtown Rockingham. Members of the Rockingham Downtown Corporation are seeking City Council support to eliminate one-way traffic in the area.

Cadieu and others believe eliminating the one-way streets would draw more visitors to the downtown area as well as address what they feel to be a potential accident — or accidents — waiting to happen.

Even the mayor and City Council members are not the final authority, however. The North Carolina Department of Transportation would have to approve any plan the city would endorse, but a resolution of support from the city would go a long way, Cadieu said.

Cadieu said city Planning Director John Massey already has reached out to DOT representatives “to get a reaction” to the proposal.

Cadieu suggested generating a response from DOT might not be that easy. As a member of the Richmond County Historical Society, Cadieu said the society approached DOT four years ago to get permission to donate the old railroad depot to the city of Rockingham.

“They never have responded,” said Cadieu, who noted the society eventually went ahead and donated the depot to the city. The depot, at the corner of Highway Business 74 and South Hancock Street is one day to be used as the city’s visitors bureau.

Cadieu relayed through state Rep. Ken Goodman that, as a lawmaker, it took Goodman three years to get a traffic light on U.S. Route 1 at Richmond Senior High School.

“Bottom line is, it’s going to take time,” Cadieu said.

RDC member Katie Rohleder, director of Discovery Place KIDS on East Washington Street, said she felt the elimination of one-way streets “would make it a lot safer.”

“We see (motorists) going the wrong way all the time,” Rohleder said.

The long tractor-trailers are another, but related issue, members agreed — there there seemed to be no easy resolution for them.

“The trucks are a major problem,” Cadieu said. “Even with the one-way streets, it’s difficult for them to get through. With two-way, my feeling is it would help them on Washington Street but it would make it worse on Franklin (Street).”

Cadieu city leaders years ago tried to get DOT to reroute truck traffic onto Greene Street to avoid the downtown area but that DOT officials “were not particularly interested in doing that.”

“That’s probably the biggest negative of changing the system — the truck traffic,” Cadieu said.

Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris, who regularly attends RDC meetings and owns Helms Jewelers on East Washington Street, said he believes federal law allows heavy truck traffic access to the shortest route possible — which, he said, is right through downtown Rockingham — in order to conserve fuel. The proposed detour would add three-tenths of a mile to each truck driver’s route.

 

 

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