Transportation officials have seen a pattern at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Carolina Pines Boulevard, and they call it a dangerous one.
Now, they’re ready to spend close to $1 million in an effort to improve the safety at the crossing.
Dwayne Alligood, district engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said the DOT recently approved a redesign of the intersection.
"We hope to have done survey and design work and be ready to go to contract with it in June," Alligood said.
Once construction bids have been accepted and approved, construction can begin. Alligood construction could be completed by August.
The redesign will prevent Carolina Pines Boulevard drivers from crossing U.S. 70 West to make left turns to U.S. 70 East toward Havelock.
"At the main entrance, the crash pattern that’s having this project are angle crashes on the near side for people leaving Carolina Pines. They’re pulling out and getting hit by people in the westbound lane," Alligood said. "That’s the main issue that we’re trying to address with this project. People pulling out of Carolina Pines are getting hit by westbound traffic. There are other crashes too, but that is the main pattern that we are seeing."
With the redesign, Carolina Pines drivers can access U.S. 70 East from another exit to their neighborhood just west of the boulevard by using a service road. At that crossover, there is enough room in the median for a vehicle, and stop signs are in place to prevent drivers from attempting to go across all four lanes of U.S. 70 traffic.
"We’re not looking at anything to that crossover, so the crossover just west of the main entrance, we’re not planning on doing any changes there," Alligood said.
Carolina Pines drivers could also access U.S. 70 East by going left on the service road and exiting at the crossover in front of Miller’s Saws. However, that intersection will be reconfigured as well with an acceleration lane that will allow drivers to merge with U.S. 70 eastbound traffic.
U.S. 70 East drivers will still be able to make left turns to access Carolina Pines Boulevard at the main entrance to the neighborhood, but they will no longer have to deal with exiting vehicles attempting to make left turns from the median to U.S. 70 East.
"If you’re headed east on 70, you would be able to make a left turn into Carolina Pines at the main entrance just like you do now," Alligood said. "We will channelize that movement just like you have seen other places."
Drivers at Carolina Pines Boulevard will be able to turn right and head toward New Bern, but changes to the right turn lane from U.S. 70 West into Carolina Pines are planned.
"We’re going to separate that right turning lane away from the main line of U.S. 70 a little bit so people can see past that right turning traffic better," he said. " … We’re just going to have to shift that ditch back a little bit and widen the pavement to the right and put a little channelization in there so that the folks in that right turn will have to slide over a little bit. We may widen the pavement four or six feet. We haven’t set that exactly yet. That right turn lane that’s there now, we’re just going to slide it toward Carolina Pines so people can see past those vehicles."
According to a DOT survey, 23 crashes have occurred at the intersection of Carolina Pines Boulevard and U.S. 70 since 2007. One person was killed and eight others injured. Of the 23 crashes, 14 involved drivers trying to cross U.S. 70 West.
The 23 crashes have involved 43 vehicles causing an estimated $142,150 in property damage.
The project is estimated at $965,000. Alligood said the project is not connected to the proposed U.S. 70 bypass or a possible recreation park in the area but was prompted by a standard review that exposed the main intersection as a high crash location.