Entrance to VA could see new traffic signals to deter accidents

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 10, 2013

SALISBURY — The city plans to light up two problem intersections with new traffic signals, including the accident-prone entrance to the Salisbury VA Medical Center on Brenner Avenue.
If the city of Salisbury and the VA can come up with $80,000, new stoplights could be up and running at the intersection of Brenner and Link avenues a year from now, City Engineer Wendy Brindle said. The city and VA plan to split the cost evenly.
And the city should turn on the new, larger stoplights at the corner of Fulton and Monroe streets by Friday, Brindle said.
Officials with the VA asked the city of Salisbury to consider a stoplight at Brenner and Link avenues, said Brindle, who added that she’s asked to study this intersection every few years.
The corner has never met standards for a traffic signal until now, Brindle said. She found that although traffic volume is still lower than warranted for a stoplight, there have been enough accidents at the intersection to qualify for a signal.
Six crashes occurred between April 2012 and April 2013, with 13 accidents there in the past three years. Angled or “T-bone” wrecks are considered correctable with a stoplight, Brindle said, and all six accidents in the one-year study were angled.
“The Salisbury VA Medical Center provides health care services for thousands of Veterans every day so naturally, veteran safety is a high priority for us, and we want to protect their livelihood and well-being,” VA spokesman Bart Major said in an email. “We are working with and will continue to work with the city of Salisbury to improve safety for Veterans, staff and Salisbury residents on the roadways around the Salisbury VA Medical Center.”
About 2,100 vehicles a day come out of the VA driveway, which leads to Link Avenue. More than 8,000 cars per day drive past the VA on Brenner, and about 400 cars a day turn from Link onto Brenner.
Both traffic volumes and the number of accidents have increased in the years Brindle has been studying the intersection. “The VA has expanded, and more people are trying to get in and out,” she said.
During the study, the city also noted that more people are walking to the VA, Brindle said. The proposed stoplights will including pedestrian signals triggered by a button, she said.
No one currently has the money to pay for the new stoplights, and the city has asked the VA for a letter pledging a commitment to pay for half the cost, Brindle said. She plans to include the city’s half in her budget proposal for the coming year.
If the funding is available in July with the new budgets, design could start then, with lights up and running by next fall at the earliest, Brindle said.
New 12-inch signal heads are ready to go at the corner of Fulton and Monroe, where the 14th accident in the past 15 months just happened Thursday. The signals haven’t been turned on yet because the N.C. Department of Transportation has been waiting for Duke Energy to power the new meters, Brindle said. That has been done, so the contractor will return this week to complete installation and remove the old lights.
City Council agreed to try the larger signals before considering more permanent measures, including removing the traffic lights and installing four-way stop signs or a mini-traffic circle.
Brindle said she can’t determine why there are so many accidents at the corner. Wrecks occur at all times of the day and night and from all angles. In many cases, a driver has run a red light.
Monroe is a state-maintained road, so N.C. DOT is paying for and installing the larger signals.
On Halloween, another wreck occurred at the corner. While the drivers were waiting for police to arrive, a third vehicle collided with one of the damaged cars. The driver of the third vehicle fled but was later apprehended, Brindle said.