ROSEBORO — Residents who live in the western Sampson County town, as well as those living in towns surrounding the area, have voiced their concerns with the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to create superstreets at the intersection of N.C. 24 and 242 when the new four-laned road is complete.
Karen Collette and Jim Dunlop, both officials with the DOT, were present during Tuesday night’s town meeting with hopes of helping irate residents understand how safe superstreets are and why the N.C. 24/242 intersection doesn’t require a traffic signal.
According to Dunlop, a superstreet is created when a side street’s movement is redirected into a U-turn. For that reason, superstreets, he said, are safer than intersections that allow the traffic to travel straight through or intersections with stoplights. Superstreets are also known for reducing the likelihood of a crash, he said.
There are 32 points of contact at traditional intersections and that number is reduced to 14 where superstreets are implemented, Dunlop pointed out in his presentation.
“As you reduce the number of points, you also reduce the chances for the bad accidents to happen,” he expressed to the standing-room only crowd.
A traditional intersection has about 120 feet of road that has to be crossed and cleared by vehicles going through intersections, Dunlop said. Some motorists are able to accurately judge the distance of a car and can clear the intersection, however, Dunlop said many drivers aren’t able to accurately judge that distance and the intersection becomes a danger.
“When coming to an intersection, looking left and judging is easy,” he attested. “It’s looking right that can be mis-judged.”
For this reason, the DOT official said a traditional intersection is a problem and signal lights are the solution.
“There is nothing magical about a red light,” Dunlop said. “People still don’t stop when there is a red light present. Traffic signals don’t always solve the probleml; they just create a different problem.”
According to Dunlop, there was a similar situation in Bladen County involving N.C. 87 and a minor road. DOT turned the intersection into a superstreet and in a three-year period, the number of crashes decreased by more than 20 accidents.
Overall, according to studies performed by the DOT, the number of crashes has been reduced by 46 percent where superstreets have been added.
Western Sampson residents have expressed their major concern is with bus safety at the intersection which is close to Lakewood High School. According to Dunlop, there have been zero crashes involving buses at superstreet intersections.
“These are absolutely safe for kids on buses,” Dunlop said. “Superstreets divide movements into parts and they are a lot safer than a full movement intersection.”
For weeks, residents have expressed their concerns with DOT officials and the town of Roseboro presented a letter to the DOT expressing its concern for the traffic pattern change, asking them to consider changing the intended plans for the intersection to a stoplight.
“We have relooked to see if a signal is warranted in that intersection,” Dunlop said. “We don’t see any of these intersections needing a signal light.”
At the end of his presentation, the audience was allowed time to offer comments either for or against the DOT plan.
Roseboro resident Greg Butler openly expressed his disagreement with the DOT’s plan to install a superstreet at the intersections of N.C. 24/242, calling Dunlop out on presenting information that was untrue or lacking in facts.
“A lot of what you have said is bogus,” Butler asserted. “What you are telling us here just isn’t true. You aren’t showing us the whole picture.”
Butler, who would like to see a signal light placed at the intersection, said it was unconscionable to him that the DOT couldn’t put a stoplight at the intersection rather than making travelers U-turn into oncoming traffic.
“These aren’t sidestreets we are dealing with,” Butler pointed out. “They are major roads with a good amount of traffic traveling north and south.”
Butler shared his own data with the DOT and the assembled audience. During a 15-minute time frame, from 7:31 a.m. until 7:46 a.m., Butler said there were 92 vehicles that came through N.C. 242 at Lakewood High School heading north, while 86 came through heading south.
“You can’t tell me that putting a light here isn’t safer,” Butler said. “This is a lot of traffic and kids taking chances. The volume of cars we have in certain times of the day warrants a traffic light.”
According to Butler, who said he has looked in detail at the DOT’s plans for intersections and lights along the new N.C. 24 corridor, a signal light is planned for the intersection of Maxwell Road and N.C. 24 in Cumberland County. This intersection, he said, is similar to the one on N.C. 24/242.
“Can you tell these people why Cumberland County lives matter more than theirs,” Butler said, pointing to the audience.
After sharing his concern, Butler left the DOT officials with one thought. “I hope you are ready to come down here and look into the eyes of the parents who have lost a teenager to an accident (because of this),” Butler said.
Roseboro resident and Sampson County Board of Education member Telfair Simpson shared his thoughts and concerns with Dunlop and Collette, hoping to persuade them to have the DOT’s plan changed.
“We have a major intersection there and not a minor side road,” Simpson shared. “The afternoons are worse because you have all the traffic traveling at one time instead of being staggered like the mornings.
Pleas continued to flow from the mouths of those in the audience, as Roland Hall, former commissioner and mayor of the town of Roseboro, shared his concerns.
“I hope you’ll be able to communicate with the superintendent of Sampson County Schools, the mayor of Roseboro and the mayor of Salemburg to ensure us that whatever is done, you’ll be able to make changes when accidents begin to happen,” Hall said.
Collette assured Hall and other concerned citizens that in the event the volume changes, and a light is warranted, changes will be made.
Commissioners Alice Butler and Ray Clark Fisher spoke, expressing their wishes for the intersection plans to be changed.
“There needs to be some signalization,” Mrs. Butler stressed. “I would ask that you strongly consider the traffic that is there.”
Fisher said he wants the DOT to make its decisions based on safety and not popularity.
“I want to make sure you aren’t doing this because it’s the new fad, but the safest thing,” Fisher added.
Simpson then asked Colette and Dunlop if they would have someone come down in the next two weeks and sit outside Lakewood High School, at the proposed location for the intersection, at 2:50 p.m., which is peak time, and observe the heavy traffic flow during that time of day
Collete assured Simpson, and other residents and board members, that someone will come down during that time and look at the traffic volume at the current intersection.