New safety measures at 1, 220 confuse motorists

County motorists not pleased with new traffic pattern

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — A variable message sign. A “stop ahead” warning sign. A stop sign with a flashing light. To the right of the new paved roadway is a pile of rubble — what’s left of the old way.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com What motorists see as they travel U.S. 1 southbound approaching the new traffic pattern.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
What motorists see as they travel U.S. 1 southbound approaching the new traffic pattern.

More than a dozen orange traffic barricades mark the edge of the road.  A few hundred more feet and there are multiple stop signs. Multiple large arrows painted on the ground to direct motorists towards a right turn. Multiple no-left-turn signs. Across the road, at eye level of a seated driver, is a One Way sign to go along with at least two others.

And yet, the improvements designed and manufactured by workers with the North Carolina Department of Transportation at the point where U.S. Route 220 North intersects with U.S. 1 South, south of Highway Business 74,  seems to have Richmond County motorists dazed and confused since the new traffic pattern opened at 1 p.m. Monday.

More than half a dozen readers of The Pee Dee Post reached out to their local digital newspaper to express concern. Pam Greene was among the first.

“Somebody’s going to get hurt,” said Greene, of Rockingham.

U.S. Route 1 has been extended slightly south and east of its previous path. After stopping, motorists wanting to continue on 1 South are to cross 220 with a righthand turn into a turning lane that will guide drivers onto 1 South, much like a backwards “S.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com During the period early Thursday afternoon, every motorist that approached the intersection navigated it successfully - and safely.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
During a period early Thursday afternoon, every motorist that approached the intersection navigated it successfully – and safely. Earlier that morning, at least six vehicles had turned left into oncoming, one-way traffic.

Some readers have told the Post the new way is not working and might be worse that the old traffic pattern. Greene said Wednesday she’d already seen two near-accidents, as people who had come to a stop started to turn left, which put those motorists going the wrong way on 220. Greene is not the only Post reader to express concern.

One man wrote and called it a “stupid traffic pattern.” Another referred to the new setup as “the convoluted death trap (that) is a very intense and dangerous passage going south.”

There’s plenty more.

“Many of us think it is the stupidest thing that the DOT could have done,” said one loyal reader and 35-year county resident.  “Already (I) have seen several cars turn left there, which is more dangerous than how it was. It is a very dangerous situation.”

It is, said yet another reader, “a mess.”

Kevin Hedrick, district engineer for the Department of Transportation, talked with The Pee Dee Post Thursday afternoon and seemed taken aback by the backlash he and state workers have experienced since Monday afternoon.

“We’ve been called ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid,'” Hedrick said. “A lot of things have been hollered out the windows. We’ve had some confusion. It’s been a certain way for a very long time.”

Image courtesy N.C. Dept. of Transportation This image shows the new traffic pattern, with northbound U.S. 1 on the right.

Image courtesy N.C. Dept. of Transportation
This image shows the new traffic pattern, with northbound U.S. 1 on the right.

But Hedrick is sticking to his guns that the new pattern can work — given drivers’  time, patience and awareness. The projected, which cost an estimated $250,000 and began this spring, is nearly finished. The original option to eliminate a drivers’ ability to head straight, or south, onto Route 1 and instead travel north to Midway Road, then south, was eliminated with local public safety officials expressed concern about response time to fires or medical emergencies. Some in Rockingham, Hedrick said, were concerned about the time and distance — approximately three-quarters of a mile there and back — added onto motorists’ drive time.

Another option was simply to stop the southbound traffic and reroute it all together, Hedrick said, perhaps going from Highway Business 74 to 220 South.

The public, he said, “doesn’t necessarily want that.”

The only other option is a bridge, or bypass, as one Post reader suggested. But that, Hedrick said, would cost millions of dollars.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Hedrick said. “One life is worth whatever it takes. If we continue to have accidents, and serious accidents, then we’ll have to look at that option. We’ve got to do something We’re responsible.”

Safety concerns prompted action, Hedrick said. According to a DOT report, there were 18 accidents at the intersection from 2008 to 2012. Some of those accidents included loss of life, and another in July 2013.

“We’re going to monitor this,” Hedrick said, “and make any necessary changes we need to.”

With all the current signage, Hedrick acknowledge he was at a loss to adequately explain motorists’ inability to follow the new traffic pattern.

“I don’t understand what people are doing,” he said. “We hope (the number of drivers turning left) decreases.

And that part is the constant of the project.

This screenshot of a Google Map shows an aerial shot, positioned in a similar manner as the image above, with the previous traffic pattern.

This screenshot of a Google Map shows an aerial shot, positioned in a similar manner as the image above, with the previous traffic pattern.

“You’ve never been able to turn left before,” Hedrick said.

Hedrick said there is more permanent, reflective material to be installed.
“I think once we get out of the way, get all the barrels gone, get all the reflective markers (applied) … maybe it’ll calm down a little bit,” he said.
Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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  • TJ Davenport

    You know I worked the wreck in 2013 that claimed the life of a young mother and paralyzed her husband who might I add had their 2 children in the vehicle as well as the children’s uncle. And had the planners or whoever from the state been present or remotely had a clue how sad this situation was not to mention the many other fatal and serious accidents at that intersection maybe the “millions” it would cost to fix this crap the right way wouldn’t seem like that much money. It’s obsurd to me. But maybe I’m wrong. I mean how many people do we have to cut out of cars or carry away in a bag before it’s fixed. But like any other government organization they don’t have the money to do it right, but they have the money to do it again.

  • Tina B

    It is not funny at all that they wanted to save some money. It did not accomplish a thing, except maybe more traffic accidents. So the people that live in the south of the county have to deal with this crazy contraption and a little bit up the road we have the only ramp in the state where you can just yield off a ramp going a lot of mph’s coming off of 74 bypass. There the people coming from the south have no room to move over to get out of the way, there is a median in the middle of the road. I think the state is trying to kill the southern people of Richmond County off–one wreck at a time.

  • Johnnie Lynch

    This is temporary while a STOP LIGHT intersection is installed, RIGHT! If not please put up some guard rails. North bound 220 traffic will be blinded by the head lights of the US1 south traffic, and may panic at the sight of traffic headed toward them. Wouldn’t a large stop light intersection be safer. By changing north bound US1 traffic to the intersection.Have them turn right off 220 to go US1 north.. The currant speed limit should not cause any problems. People pay more attention at large stop light intersection. The slowing of the north bound 220 traffic would not be great, and the local people will respond better to the stop light’s. My parents live on US1 about 2 miles from this intersection. They have been driving thought is for 40 plus year’s. I hope this change doesn’t cause them any harm. Nor anybody else.

  • william english

    I agree that is the most ludacris solution to a simple traffic problem that could be devised. There are going to be fatalities there…and soon. When a tractor trailer going south at night…in the rain takes that right turn.moving as slow as they do, some oblivious motorist going north is just going to drive right under the trailer. Its inevitable. Just go ahead and build an overpass and get it overwith. BEFORE another tragedy takes place.

  • Joy walters

    This is the worst way the NCDOT could try to fix this intersection. There should be a stop light or something here not a crazy S shaped turn where you have to cross 2 lanes of north bound 220 traffic. It’s simply unsafe. This design is going to cause a lot more fatal traffic accidents. Especially during times when there is high amounts of travelers in town.

  • Steve Reynolds

    Did a 3 year old child of a DOT engineer draw up the plans for this mess? I am glad I don’t travel down #1 south that often, when I do I’ll catch 220 @ 74.

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