No matter what design, the goal of proposed changes to the intersection of U.S. 70 and Carolina Pines Boulevard is still the same.
"Whatever we do, we have to be satisfied that we address the crash pattern problem," said Haywood Daultry, a regional traffic safety engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
About 50 Carolina Pines residents gathered for a DOT meeting of proposed redesigns of the intersection Tuesday night at the Township Six Volunteer Fire Department.
DOT is looking to redesign the intersection in response to 23 crashes at the junction from 2007 to 2012 that left one person dead and eight others injured.
One design is unchanged from when it was presented during a meeting in March. Carolina Pines residents would no longer be permitted to make left turns from the boulevard onto U.S. 70 East. Instead, drivers looking to head to Havelock would have to make a right turn and then make a U-turn at a crossing just west of the main intersection. That crossing could also be accessed using the service road.
Residents could also turn right on the service road and make a left turn on U.S. 70 at a crossing just east of the boulevard and use a new acceleration lane that would be constructed.
The other proposed design is in response to comments from the March meeting. Left turns would be permitted from Carolina Pines Boulevard, but the deceleration lane for drivers turning right into the subdivision from U.S. 70 West would be moved slightly to allow for better visibility of drivers exiting the subdivision.
Daultry said the more involved design would have a crash reduction of 51 percent, but the simple rearrangement of the deceleration lane in the other alternative would have a crash reduction of 25 percent. The second design is also cheaper, at $160,000, compared to the original design that carries an estimated cost of $965,000.
DOT officials said that the less expensive alternative was a safety improvement, but just not as much. If it is built, the state would come back ever six months during a five-year period for an evaluation. If the crash pattern continues, the state could ultimately come back and implement its first choice as a solution.
Residents attending the meeting had mixed reviews of the two designs.
"I think that the safety engineers and the people that design highways have put a lot of effort into this," resident Richard Cota said. "The plan has been put forth with a lot of thought, and I appreciate what DOT has done. I think the overall plan will help things immensely. I know a lot of people won’t agree with me, but it’s a good plan."
Resident Leon Carmichael said that he would like to see the deceleration lane entering the subdivision set back so that traffic doesn’t block visibility.
"They’ve done their jobs, their homework and it’s got to work," he said. "They’re not putting it out there to jeopardize people. Either plan we’ve got to live with. Our whole problem is we’ve only got one entrance and one exit."
Resident Patricia DeMeo said she thought the meeting was just to appease the people.
"It doesn’t mean a damn thing. They’re going to do it anyway whether we like it or not, and it’s not going to solve the problem," she said. "It’s going to cause more problems."
DeMeo was one of a group of residents who want a traffic signal at the intersection. DOT officials have said a light in what they called a rural spot would not increase safety and pointed to what they said were successful changes to intersections along U.S. 70 in Newport without traffic signals.
That explanation did not sit well with resident Sue Roeckell.
"I just feel that over the years people have asked and asked," Roeckell said. "In my opinion they’ve had three meetings and they’re wasted. Nine out of ten of us want a light. Don’t they listen?"
Other residents came away from the meeting satisfied.
"The actual meeting was a success as far as I’m concerned," Ken Slagle said "People got to voice their opinions. As I have said before, the only thing that’s going to correct this situation is to lower the speed of the automobiles. They’re plan is fine. It’s not going to be any better or any worse, but it’ll happen. That’s for sure. They’ve made up their mind what they want to do."
Dwayne Alligood, DOT district engineer, said the latest resident comments would be considered in choosing the final design. Should the less-involved changes that move the U.S. 70 deceleration lane be selected, construction could begin in early fall. He said if the original design is selected, work would likely not start until the spring.