By Clellie Allen
ROLESVILLE — The Department of Transportation’s decision to seemingly change the configuration of the intersection of East Young Street and the N.C. 401 Bypass met with consternation and alarm from Rolesville commissioners Tuesday.
According to an e-mail from project engineer David Moore to Eastern Wake EMS Training Chief Tina Como, NCDOT has decided to not put in place cut-throughs to enable emergency vehicles to cross the intersection instead of having to follow the normal traffic pattern of superstreets.
Commissioners, however, were adamant that the original presentation from NCDOT Division 5 Engineer Wally Bowman had that feature.
The superstreet design prohibits cross-street traffic from going straight through or left at a divided highway intersection. (See illustration on page 16A.) The minor cross street traffic must turn right, but can then access a U-turn area, like above.
In his e-mail, Moore states this design significantly reduces severe crashes such as side-collisions or T-bone types of accidents.
Superstreets are in use in other states and also here in North Carolina, including three in Holly Springs along the N.C. 55 bypass.
At issue in Rolesville, however, is a growing population on the south side of the bypass for which the town provides emergency services — especially Rolesville High which is slated to have 2,262 students at capacity. That is just less than half the current population of Rolesville.
It came out in the discussion between commissioners Tuesday, that they understood from DOT’s engineer Wally Bowman that there would be a cut-through for rescue vehicles so that they could rapidly cross the intersection after ensuring traffic stopped.
But in his e-mail, Moore cited concerns that all traffic would be tempted to “take advantage of the design to circumvent the superstreet movements. Having the high school down the road increases that concern,” he wrote Como in his e-mail.
It was in large part Como’s concerns about that high school that prompted her to share concerns with DOT.
“In a very short time, we will have student drivers trying to navigate a U-turn while trying to go to and from the school and I’m convinced that we’ll have kids seriously injured or killed in short order after the road opens,” Como wrote.
She added that her second concern was “the intersection design has lengthened the EMS and fire response times to locations farther down East Young Street.”
Commissioner Ronnie Currin, the board’s liaison to emergency services, told the board that Rolesville Fire Chief Rodney Privette said he did not see how the ladder truck would negotiate the U-turn.
“Rodney said he’d have to get men out on the road stopping traffic to be able to make the turn,” Currin said.
Como would like the intersection to remain a “proper intersection with lights,” and if that is not possible, utilize the cut-throughs.
While Moore wrote that DOT would evaluate the intersection in the future to see if signalization was necessary, he didn’t think it would happen during this construction phase.
“With this project so far into construction … the Department is not able to accommodate a major redesign of this intersection at this time,” Moore wrote. He also wrote that the barriers which would prevent cars from crossing the intersection would be kept low enough the emergency trucks or police cars could drive over it.
Como, however, in earlier statements said that crossing the median was risky for the fire and rescue vehicles as they were not built for driving over curbs.
Mayor Frank Eagles asked Town Manager Bryan Hicks to get in touch with Bowman and arrange a time for him to come back and talk with commissioners about the intersection, citing delays in construction has left that intersection undone so far.
Commissioner Shannon Whitley added, “If their concern is about people crossing where they shouldn’t, then stick a police officer there and write tickets.”
To see a NCDOT presentation on how super-streets work, go to tinyurl.com/NCDOTsuperstreet.