Speakers don't want traffic circle

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — All but one participant in a public meeting Monday agreed that they oppose a planned traffic circle at the intersection of Sherrills Ford and Briggs roads.
N.C. Rep. Harry Warren held the meeting Monday night to gather feedback on the state Department of Transportation proposal.
“If we do nothing, this is what you’ve got if you want it,” Warren said. “If you think this is going to be detrimental to the community out there … then you have to speak up.”
The 30 or so local residents who attended Monday’s meeting had several questions about the proposal and possible alternatives.
Warren said he will schedule another meeting with N.C. Department of Transportation officials to allow them to get answers to those questions and share their opinions directly.
The department held a workshop on Oct. 25 to inform the public about its plan, answer questions and get people’s opinions. But Warren, N.C. Rep. Fred Steen (who attended Monday) and the county commissioners could not be there.
Commissioner Jim Sides said he was told the department will only consider written feedback in its decision.
Warren said many local residents don’t feel they’re being heard, so he will put what they said Monday into writing and send it along. He said he regrets that more of the 198 neighbors invited didn’t attend.
The transportation department says the roundabout will improve safety and traffic flow at the intersection. Over the last five years, 21 crashes have occurred at the intersection, its staffers have said.
This includes the wreck that killed Greg Terry in 2009 when his Saturn was struck by an eastbound truck on Sherrills Ford Road.
Months after Terry’s death, his mother Mendee Williams and her neighbors petitioned the Department of Transportation for a stop light.
But the department says the intersection doesn’t warrant a traffic light under federal law.
It has instead proposed a roundabout, which would be much more expensive, costing $450,000 in state and federal funds.
The main question, Warren said, is whether this is the safest, most appropriate and most cost-effective solution for the community.
“I feel sorry for the young man who lost his life … and my heart goes out to the family,” said participant Kevin Little. “But I do not think the taxpayers’ money should be thrown out at a rate of $450,000 because a young man made a bad decision.”
Several people said the department should keep the current flashing light, which was put up as a temporary measure in March, and wait to see if that makes the intersection safer.
“Why don’t you just reduce the speed on Sherrill’s Ford Road, leave the caution light and give it a chance?” said Princess Bartlett. “Just lower the speed limit from 55 to 45 or something like that.”
No accidents have happened since the light was put up, but the transportation department says drivers eventually will ignore it, said Commissioner Carl Ford.
Another alternative is to set up a four-way stop with speed bumps or rumble strips leading up to it.
Warren said the department hasn’t pursued this option, which would cost about $10,000, because it would create noise and make neighbors unhappy.
Like a stoplight, it also would increase fuel consumption.
“The more you stop traffic and accelerate, the less efficient you get on your mileage,” said Larry Wright. He suggested that the department “give a little more clearance to people coming from Barringer Road, so they’re able to see to the right.”
Just one participant spoke in favor of the roundabout, but he also said he’d support a four-way stop or a traffic light.
“We need to address this intersection. Something’s got to be done,” said James Walker. “It’s a lot of money, but they’re going to spend the money anyway.”
Warren said funds shouldn’t be spent just because they’re available, and they could go to other worthy projects.
A few people argued that the traffic circle wouldn’t be as safe as the Department of Transportation says it would.
“You will have more wrecks with this roundabout than you would with a stop light,” said Garland Briggs. “Maybe not as serious, but you’re going to have more of them.”
After the meeting, Warren said he could support a $450,000 roundabout if it will help reduce accidents, “but if we can accomplish the same thing with $10,000, I’ll support that even more.”
The comment period for the proposed circle ends Nov. 22.
The N.C. Department of Transportation asks that anyone wishing to provide commentary on the project to e-mail the department office. Contact information can be found at www.ncdot.org.
For more information, call Brett Abernathy with the state transportation department at 336-703-6631.