When the N.C. Department of Transportation came up with its design plans for the U.S. 70-Slocum Road interchange, it went to Havelock residents for their thoughts.
Many expressed displeasure, especially with proposed changes to the intersection at Tucker Creek and U.S. 70.
So, what did DOT do with all the information and opinions it gathered from the public?
DOT officials came back last week and told the city no major changes would be made to the design plans.
And that’s just wrong.
Government is supposed to be responsive to the people, and as such, a government agency should be as well.
However, the DOT is turning a blind eye to resident concerns about the design of the U.S. 70-Slocum Road interchange that will cause major disruptions to about 480 households that make up the Tucker Creek, Hickman Hills and MacDonald Downs subdivisions.
For some reason, DOT engineers feel changes are needed to a perfectly good and functioning traffic signal that separates Tucker Creek and Hickman Hills along U.S. 70.
Currently, the traffic signal allows drivers traveling from any direction to go in any direction they desire — straight, left or right.
According to DOT plans, most of these turns will be restricted. Drivers coming out of Tucker Creek would be able to turn left or right but would be prevented from driving straight across the highway. The same would hold true for Hickman Hills residents.
Residents heading east on U.S. 70 wishing to turn left into Tucker Creek won’t be able to do so at the traffic signal as they can currently. Instead, they will have to drive past the entrance to their neighborhood and make a U-turn at a new crossing that is to be constructed a few hundred yards down the highway.
Hickman Hills residents would have to do the same thing to enter their neighborhood from the opposite side of the highway.
We have questioned DOT on its designs and spending in the past, but this proposal goes beyond anything that makes sense.
The Tucker Creek traffic signal is not a problem for residents and never has been. The traffic light allows free movement of traffic safely in all directions.
Instead, DOT wants to make local residents drive out of what is a normal traffic pattern and force them to make left turns and U-turns into speeding traffic along U.S. 70. Not to mention they will have to go out of their way to access their own neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, MacDonald Downs residents would no longer have direct access to U.S. 70 but would have to use a new road that is to be built that links with Tucker Creek.
We contacted DOT and were told the changes to the traffic light and traffic patterns at Tucker Creek and U.S. 70 is for the safety and expediency of drivers traveling on U.S. 70.
However, at least one city commissioner, Danny Walsh, thinks the changes don’t improve safety a bit, telling us any improvement to safety at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Slocum Road with the new interchange would be mitigated by increased dangers at Tucker Creek.
“Instead of front-end collisions, you’re going to have rear-end collisions,” he said.
We’re not completely sold on the need for the flyover interchange anyway, a $20.5 million project to replace the current traffic signal. Granted the intersection has been the site of some bad crashes, but we believe other changes can be done to make the intersection safer. A reduction in speed limit can give drivers more time to react, and warning signs placed before the intersection can tell drivers when the light is about to change. Plus, the only real problems at the intersection occur infrequently, only during rush hours in the mornings and afternoons.
DOT wants to spend $20.5 million in taxpayer money, disrupt normal traffic patterns, change a perfectly good and safe traffic light, and force residents to make U-turns and drive in different directions to access their neighborhoods.
We believe Walsh said it best: “This whole system is totally wrong for the future. DOT is not right. DOT is wrong on this.”