Ahoskie traffic problem areas identified

Published 5:32 pm Thursday, July 16, 2009

AHOSKIE – As expected within a bustling town such as Ahoskie, there are issues concerning traffic safety.

That fact yields an important question….what are Ahoskie officials doing to remedy any problematic areas where the safety of the motoring public and pedestrian traffic is in jeopardy?

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, members of the Ahoskie Town Council listened intently as Mark Freeman, Transportation Engineering Manager for Gibson Engineers, presented a detailed study and proposed solutions regarding traffic-related issues throughout Ahoskie.

Freeman’s firm, based in Fuquay-Varina, was hired through Ahoskie’s engineering firm, The Wooten Company, to perform the study, one approved by the Town Council earlier this year.

Prior to sharing the results of his study, Freeman told Council that this was not an engineering study.

“This is a first look, a planning overview that looks at ways Ahoskie can enhance traffic safety and mobility,” Freeman said. “This study will provide you with the guidance you need to focus in on the areas of greatest concern.”

Freeman said the study was conducted in February during a weekday morning. He observed the traffic conditions during the AM peak period (7:30-8:30 a.m.).

Following that morning observation, Freeman collected additional data from Town Manager Tony Hammond, Public Works Director Kirk Rogers, Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh and Fire Chief Ken Dilday before performing a field visit to specific locations.

From his general observations, Freeman provided the following list of traffic-related concerns:

R-C Hospital area – Parking overflow from the hospital extends to the adjacent residential streets. It was noted that vehicles blocked residential driveways or parked in the wrong direction along the street, resulting in difficult maneuvers for heavy vehicles (i.e. fire trucks, EMS vehicles, public works/utility vehicles and school buses.

Pine Street/First Street/Hill Street area – Sight distance problems exist due to parking on both sides of the street. That fact also hinders access made by emergency service or public works vehicles.

Downtown side streets (off Main Street) – Noted a lack of visibility for pedestrians as they enter the traffic stream between parked vehicles. Parking adjacent to intersections also creates conflicts for larger vehicles, especially school buses, turning onto side streets.

Memorial Drive – Traffic congestion and queue spillback were areas of concern between the signalized intersections along Ahoskie’s busiest thoroughfare. Access management issues were also noted throughout the retail development area. Multiple driveways for the same parcels were noted. Another key concern was for the left turn egress onto the five-lane section. With each access point and allowed maneuver, the potential for vehicle crashes increases.

On the subject of Memorial Drive, Freeman, using accident data provided by the Ahoskie Police Department, noted that of the 971 traffic-related incidents reported in town over the last three years, 335 were on Memorial Drive or a side street leading to Memorial Drive.

“While there are parking and traffic issues in and around the hospital, I feel Memorial Drive should be your priority area in addressing traffic safety,” Freeman said.

From an overall standpoint, Freeman noted sight distance concerns are prevalent throughout town. This was caused, he said, by vehicles parking too close to intersections and driveways.

He also noted poor intersection alignments found at Memorial Drive/Martin Luther King Ave.; Catherine Creek Road at Church Street and Parker Ave; and Main Street at Catherine Creek Road.

Pedestrian access was another concern. Freeman said it wasn’t consistent throughout the town and also noted a lack of pedestrian signalization. He added there is very little accommodation for pedestrians along Memorial Drive.

As far as potential solutions for these problem areas, Freeman offered the following:

Hospital area

Reallocate the number of available parking spaces in the parking lots.

Remove on-street parking on one or both sides of Curtis Street (from Memorial Drive to Sunset St.); Sunset St. (from Pembroke Ave. to Academy St.); Memorial Drive (from Pembroke to Academy); Myers St. (from Curtis St. to Circle Drive); and Strokes St. (from Curtis to Pembroke).

Additional parking spaces near the entrances to the hospital may have to be removed to allow for adequate entry by vehicles.

Establish a town ordinance prohibiting parking within six feet of either side of a driveway and six feet from all intersections.

Convert Sunset St. (from Academy St. to Curtis St.) to one-way operation (eastbound).

In an effort to share space, connect the parking lots of the hospital and the medical offices located across Memorial Drive.

Memorial Drive

Conduct an access management study along Memorial Drive (from Catherine Street to NC 561 intersection). The study should consider consolidation of access points and conversion of full access points to right-in/right-out only access.

Additionally, Freeman strongly suggested the placement of a raised median barrier, converting the current five-lane roadway to a four-lane divided section with defined turning and access points.

The existing timing of the traffic signals should be reviewed and their timings adjusted to improve traffic flow and ensure adequate time for pedestrians to cross.

Identify key pedestrian areas and design enhancements – sidewalks, crosswalks, raised walkways – to encourage pedestrians to cross at specified areas. Furthermore, the town should consider the installation of pedestrian signals at downtown traffic signals and at other locations as applicable.

Other Intersections

Revise the intersection geometry at the intersections of Church Street/Parker Ave. and Catherine Creek Road; and Main Street and Catherine Creek Road.