Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2013

SALISBURY — A dangerous intersection in Salisbury soon will have larger, 12-inch traffic signals in hopes that drivers will avoid the nearly monthly collisions occurring there.
There have been 11 accidents in the past 12 months at the intersection of Monroe and Fulton streets. Between 2009 and 2012, there were 34 accidents at the corner.
City Council on Tuesday considered several options for improving safety at the intersection, including a mini traffic circle or replacing the current eight-inch signals with four-way stop signs.
But council members opted for larger signals, which most people in the neighborhood who responded to a survey preferred.
City Council also asked interim City Engineer Wendy Brindle to prepare a report on another possible intervention. Many residents have asked for four-way stop signs at the adjacent intersections of Monroe and Jackson streets and Monroe and Ellis streets, each a block from the troubled corner on Fulton.
Resident Mona Lisa Wallace, whose family owns the Hambley Wallace House at Monroe and Fulton, said they watch cars on both streets speed up to make the light at the intersection.
“We are extremely concerned,” she said.
Wallace opposed the traffic circle and said it would make it impossible for her family to use the driveway, which enters the streets at an angle. She advocated for the larger signals.
Many others spoke during the public hearing, including Greg Shields, who lives near the intersection and served as chairman of the parking and traffic committee for Downtown Salisbury Inc. for several years.
Based on his research, Shields said police enforcement and speed humps are the most effective ways to calm traffic. But of the three options presented to City Council on Tuesday, Shields said the traffic circle had the best chance of slowing cars.
Because four-way stops have been successful in the Fulton Heights neighborhood and are cheaper than constructing a traffic circle, Shields suggested trying that option first.
Brian Davis, who is executive director of Historic Salisbury Foundation but was speaking as a private citizen, opposed the traffic circle, which he said would harm the neighborhood’s character and could cause more accidents at higher speeds.
Karen Windate, who owns a bed and breakfast near the intersection, also opposed the traffic circle. While she said she believes the Monroe-Fulton intersection carries too many cars for a four-way stop, Windate suggested the city take a more holistic approach and place four-way stops or other traffic calming measures at nearby intersections.
The larger traffic signals alone will not fix the problem, she said.
Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said she thought the city had fixed the issue by extending the red light time in all directions a few months ago. Then, she found herself sitting in her car while emergency crews cleared yet another accident.
Blackwell said the city should start with the least invasive option and move up from there if needed.
Stop signs and traffic lights can be erected or removed, but a traffic circle is more permanent, several council members agreed.
Councilman Brian Miller asked Brindle to also consider rumble strips, grooved crosswalks or some other change to the street surface that might slow down drivers.
Brindle said the state will pay for the larger signals. The city will study the results after three months, six months and one year. She is expected to report back to City Council in February.
The 80th percentile speed is 36 mph on Fulton Street, which has a speed limit of 30 mph. Most drivers travel at 37 mph on Monroe Street, where the speed limit is 35 mph.
The accidents at the intersection have no discernible pattern, Brindle said. They are caused by drivers coming from every direction at all times of day.
Mayor Paul Woodson asked Brindle to double check the reliability of the traffic lights after one resident suggested they must be malfunctioning because in several accidents, both drivers claimed to have had the green light.
Brindle said the signals have been checked repeatedly and are working properly.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.