Havelock officials have supported the idea of a Slocum Road interchange to improve safety and relieve traffic congestion at the intersection on U.S. 70 that leads to Cherry Point’s back gate.
But the N.C. Department of Transportation’s proposed design of the interchange has left them so frustrated that Commissioner Danny Walsh called for the project to be scrapped.
“I have been a proponent of this since the beginning,” he said during last week’s board meeting, “and in my opinion, you’d be better off to tell them not to do it. That’s how bad it is, in my opinion.”
Residents will get the chance to express their opinions on the proposed design of the interchange during a public hearing from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
No formal presentation is planned, but residents can view the designs of the interchange, ask questions of DOT representatives and leave written comments on the proposal.
The main part of the project involves construction of an exit ramp from U.S. 70 East and a bridge that will cross over westbound U.S. 70 for drivers to access Slocum Road and Cherry Point.
What has city officials most upset is proposed changes to the signaled intersection at Tucker Creek and Hickman Hills.
Currently, the traffic signal allows drivers traveling from any direction to go in any direction they desire — straight, left or right.
Under DOT’s proposed designs, the six-phase traffic signal would be changed, eliminating left turns and the opportunity for drivers to go directly across the highway. As an example, a Hickman Hills resident taking a child to Tucker Creek Middle School would have to turn right out of the subdivision, travel east on U.S. 70, and then make a U-turn onto U.S. 70 West at a new signaled crossing several hundred yards down the highway that is to be constructed, and then turn right into the subdivision.
The new crossing would also handle Tucker Creek residents. Currently, those residents heading East on U.S. 70 can simply turn left at the traffic signal to access the neighborhood. However, they will now have to drive past the main light at the intersection and make a U-turn.
Hickman Hills residents leaving Havelock on U.S. 70 and wanting to access their neighborhood also will no longer be permitted to turn left at the Tucker Creek light but instead will have to make a U-turn at a new crossing that is to be constructed west of the intersection. That crossing will not have a traffic signal.
DOT officials have said such a design improves traffic flow on U.S. 70.
“People going to the beach will not be affected,” Walsh said.
Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders expressed his frustration over the proposed design by jokingly suggesting during last week’s board meeting that police start license checks on U.S. 70 on Sunday afternoons when travelers are leaving the beach.
City officials are also concerned that MacDonald Downs residents would no longer have direct access to U.S. 70 but would instead use a new access road called Marsha’s Way that links with Pine Grove Road between Wells Wayside Furniture and Havelock’s West End Fire Station.
DOT officials met with Havelock officials to go over the preliminary plans for the interchange in April, where changes to the design were suggested.
“Everything we’ve asked for, they’ve said no,” Walsh said.
Havelock officials said such changes to the Tucker Creek intersection are not needed, especially because the planned U.S. 70 bypass of Havelock planned for 2015 would take about 15,000 cars per day off that section of highway.
“They keep saying they have to go to this design because of traffic flow,” City Manager Jim Freeman said. “Yes, it is a better way for dispersing traffic, but nobody really answers the question in regards to the bypass and what exactly are the numbers and how will that affect that intersection area. I don’t think we’ve heard an answer to that.”
The project is estimated to cost $20.5 million, with construction expected to start in 2015.
For more information on the meeting, contact Matthew Potter, NCDOT project manager, at 919-707-6036 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Lou Raymond at 704-556-5047 or by email at email@example.com.