Whether dangerous or confusing, be careful at these crossings

Slocum Road/U.S. 70

Every morning the intersection of Slocum Road and U.S. 70 is thick with traffic heading into the back entrance to Cherry Point. Marines bound for their duty stations and civilians driving to Fleet Readiness Center East and other base jobs use the entrance after the commute from homes west of the base.

The intersection has been the site of many crashes between turning vehicles and westbound traffic. In response to crashes and a campaign by city government, the N.C. Department of Transportation has plans to create a flyover interchange at the intersection, which will direct eastbound traffic headed for the base up and over westbound traffic lanes.

“It’s OK. People are just not paying attention,” Havelock resident Jeff Styx said of the intersection. “They’re worried about getting to work. They’re worried about smoking their cigarette or drinking their power drink, or putting their makeup on, whatever. They are just not paying attention. That’s all I can attribute to that one. There are plenty of lights, plenty of time.”

While the flyover solves one problem, in the opinion of some, it creates others. 

The entrance of MacDonald Downs subdivision to U.S. 70 will be closed to make room for a lane of departing base traffic entering westbound U.S. 70. Residents in the subdivision will be redirected to Pine Grove Road via a new connector from Marshas Way. And the intersection at Tucker Creek will be reworked, preventing drivers from directly crossing the highway and forcing others to make U-turns to get where they’re going.

The project, R-5516, has a cost of $20.51 million, which construction set for next year.

Miller Boulevard/Church Road

It’s arguably one of the most complex intersections in Havelock and perhaps the oldest. Like spokes on a wheel, the intersection of Miller Boulevard, Greenfield Heights Boulevard, Church Road, Lake Road and the North Carolina Railroad is at the center of historic “Old Havelock.”  

The railroad was linked here in 1858 and named “Havelock Station” after the then recently departed British general Sir Henry Havelock. The intersection was once site of a small post office. The railroad freight depot still sat there where raw materials were brought in to build Cherry Point and thousands of new Marines disembarked after the base was built at the beginning of World War II. The old Havelock School was in one slice of the pie.

Today, drivers crane their necks trying to make safe passage across without colliding with other vehicles or even the train. While the train tracks are clearly marked with signs and blinking lights, collisions happened twice in 2015.

“I’ve seen five cars hit by that train,” said Jessica Third, of Havelock, who works at the Jim Dandy convenience store at the intersection. “It’s dangerous. People are not paying attention to what they’re doing. You can’t see around the bend over here with all the bushes and trees poking out. You’ve got a lot of people who want to shoot that gap and misjudging and everything. You’ve got people who are trying to race the train. We need to have crossing arms down for that.”

It is likely that this intersection will soon be busier than it is now. As part of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to build a 10-mile bypass around and to the west of the city, there will be a new interchange at about 1 1/2 miles out on Lake Road.

Fontana Boulevard/Webb Boulevard

N.C. 101 feeds into Havelock’s east end at Fontana Boulevard bringing motorists from eastern Craven County, Beaufort and Down East Carteret County, not to mention commuters from the ferry across the Neuse River from Pamlico County.  It can be a smooth ride — during the summer. When school is in session, the intersection is often busy, and drivers can have difficulty exiting Webb Boulevard.

And in the morning and afternoons, the area can get clogged with Cherry Point commuters, parents heading to school to drop off their children at school and buses going in and out.

Student drivers, young and inexperienced, can sometimes add to the problems, even though a police officer is often at the intersection to direct traffic at the non-signaled intersection.

“Basically, we don’t want these school buses to be backing up traffic,” Havelock Police Chief David Magnusson said. “If we can get them out of there, keep them flowing — for those that have to wait to get across, it’s a little problematic but in the long run it’s far more advantageous just to have a plan and let these buses just proceed through. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and the flow of traffic opens up.”

Stonebridge Trail/U.S.70

After the DOT removed the traffic light at Ketner Boulevard, residents of Ketner Heights joined neighborhoods in Stonebridge and Lynnwayne Circle who use the stoplight at Stonebridge Trail and U.S. 70. Professional offices and other businesses on both sides of the road and traffic from the nearby U.S. Post Office all come together to use the light.

There are stop signs on the adjacent service roads, but to say that they are often ignored by motorists attempting to “make the light” would be an understatement. The signs might as well say “Stop If You Feel Like It.”

To some motorists, writing tickets to stop sign runners could be a solution.

“The stop sign is there for a reason. It’s not there to run so that you can catch the light. Safety comes first,” Havelock Police Chief David Magnusson said. “That will be another place that we set up on because we respond to the community. We will set up and we will do details there coming soon to a stop sign near you.”

Another aspect of the intersection, and all similar intersections, is the inclination of left turning vehicles to turn in front of one another, as opposed to going around one another, as is the proper way according to how drivers are instructed. But those vehicles turning left are often anxious to do so, turning in front of other vehicles that are going straight through the intersection and have the right of way.

There is also the issue for the vehicles stopped and waiting at the service road intersections about which vehicle has the right of way and should go first. The law is that vehicles who are going straight have the right of way, however, common courtesy appears to have, in many cases, taken over, wherein the first person at the intersection is given the right of way by the other motorists who have not arrived at the intersection as quickly. There is on occasion quick a bit of hand waving between drivers and then again, some who completely ignore everyone else and dart forward regardless.

U.S. 70/Service Road at Patron

It’s not a major intersection by any means, but with about 24,000 vehicles passing nearby on U.S. 70, the little cut from U.S. 70 onto the service road in front of the La Casa Del Patron restaurant is one where drivers really need to pay attention to one another.

Many drivers headed east on U.S. 70 need to enter the adjacent service road to access the post office, the restaurant, the two large hotels, the Havelock Tourist and Event Center or just to continue east to nearby businesses. Westbound drivers wanting to turn left essentially have to examine three lanes of traffic before accessing the service road safely.

And waiting on it all are drivers at stop signs on the service roads, with eastbound drivers on the service roads having to turn completely around to make sure no vehicles are entering the intersection from U.S. 70 east.

“I think where the stop sign is at now is more of an inconvenience,” said Jessica Third. “It’s right at the parking lot of a restaurant. It should be more down towards the Tourist Center so it’s more like one section.”

Moving the access to be in line with Tourist Center Drive is something that has been considered by the N.C. Department of Transportation.

“More of the problems that I see of people at that intersection are people coming off 70 onto the service road. A lot of them like to stop,” Third said. “I’ve seen them coming off of 70 and then shooting across 70 and having to slam on brakes because somebody’s stopping right there and that is causing problems. That’s where I’m seeing the majority of the issues at that intersection.

“Paying attention is the main thing. Quit being in such a rush. Where you’re going is still going to be there five minutes down the road.”