Changes in store for dangerous intersection

Published 9:22 am Thursday, July 29, 2010

AHOSKIE – A plan is in place to address the local area’s most dangerous intersection.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, work will begin immediately in an effort to reduce the number of motor vehicle collisions, many of which over the years have yielded tragic results, at the NC 11 & 11 intersection near Ahoskie.

A DOT official at the regional office in Edenton said the work will be completed before the opening of the school year, which begins locally in mid-to-late August.

The plan, according to a letter sent from DOT Division Traffic Engineer Donald Chad Edge III to Hertford County Manager Loria Williams, will be to transform the 11 & 11 junction from a crossroads to a T-intersection. To accomplish that goal, DOT will close off a portion of SR 1213 (Old NC 11) from Deerwoods Road (SR 1215) to the southeast side of the 11 & 11 intersection. That will prevent any traffic, traveling north or south between Ahoskie and Murfreesboro, from crossing the intersection.

With that intersection blocked off on its southeast side, motorists on US 13 attempting to access NC 11 can choose two options – use the Modlin Road (SR 1130) or the Shortcut Road (SR 1212).

“By creating a T-type intersection at NC 11 & 11, the number of potential conflicts is significantly reduced and the issue of crossing traffic eliminated,” Edge said in his letter.

Additionally, Edge addressed what will prove to be an increased number of vehicles using the Modlin Road.

“Based on the newly formed traffic patterns, a traffic signal is expected to be needed and installed at the intersection of US 13 and SR 1130 (Modlin Road),” he said. “The flasher at the intersection of US 13 and SR 1213 (Old NC 11) would be removed based on the reduced traffic volumes on SR 1213.”

The number of motor vehicle accidents over the past five years at this intersection are staggering. According to DOT records, there have been 39 collisions, 34 of which were of the angle variety – meaning accidents caused by a crossing pattern. Thirty-one of those wrecks produced injuries, two of which were fatal and three others were deemed as serious. Only one accident was alcohol related.

The most recent accident there occurred last week, one which claimed the life of a Powellsville woman.

“In light of most recent fatality, we are totally in support of any action DOT takes in an effort to save lives at that intersection,” said First Sgt. Todd Lane of the NC Highway Patrol’s Troop A, District II office in Ahoskie. “That intersection has for an extended period of time been the scene of several collisions, including ones that ended with fatalities and serious injuries. It is our hope with these changes that we will see a significant reduction in the number of collisions there.”

Sgt. Lane continued, “While we understand that the changes may be inconvenient for some, we feel they are necessary to save lives. During the adjustment period that comes with any change in a traffic pattern, (NCHP) troopers will be assigned to work the affected areas on US 13, Modlin Road and NC 11.”

The news of DOT’s plan was well-received by local education officials, especially considering the number of school-age children that travel through that intersection either by bus or private vehicle.

“Anything that can be done to provide more safety for our students, our teachers, our parents is extremely important,” stated Dr. John Fahey, Superintendent of Hertford County Public Schools. “We are very pleased that DOT studied this issue and devised a plan that addresses the safety of those using that intersection.

“Sure, it will cause some headaches at first while motorists become accustomed to a new traffic pattern,” Dr. Fahey added. “But in the long run, it’s all about safety. It will change the way we move students between our schools in Ahoskie, Murfreesboro and Winton and we will be judicious in how we re-route our buses.”

Hertford County Public Schools begin their new year on Aug. 25. Ridgecroft School, located on NC 11 northwest of the intersection, starts classes on Aug. 18.

The safety issue at NC 11 & 11 has long been a topic of discussion. Williams said she and the Hertford County Board of Commissioners have addressed this topic several times over the past few years, including meetings with DOT officials.

“That particular intersection has been high on our list of concerns,” Williams said. “The Commissioners and I have shared our concerns with NCDOT who, in turn, said they would work to find a solution to the problems there. We really appreciate NCDOT listening to our concerns.”

Williams closed by saying, “It will be a change in the way we travel here in our county, but it’s a change for the good. When a plan is developed and implemented that can significantly lower the risk of death or serious injury in an automobile accident, you seize that opportunity. The end result is safety and that was our primary focus throughout this process.”

Ahoskie businessman Hal Daniels has long been a proponent of addressing the safety of NC 11 & 11. He launched an effort in 2007 where he corresponded with DOT officials in Raleigh, Wilson and locally.

Earlier in the process, Daniels said he was lobbying for additional warning lights and signs at the intersection as well as the possibility of installing rumble strips…“anything that would call attention to motorists to warn them they were entering a very dangerous intersection,” he said.

“None of us are traffic engineers, so we feel whatever works best to save lives and prevent property damage, whether it be to someone in our family, someone we know or an out-of-town motorist, we fully support that effort,” Daniels stressed.

DOT weighed several options in addressing the 11 & 11 intersection. Among those options was a roundabout. Edge said that despite state funding to design and construct a roundabout at the intersection, its use came with concerns, given the rural setting of that intersection as well as the nature of the traffic flow.

“In trying to address these concerns in the design phase, the scope of the roundabout had grown to beyond the immediate funding available for its construction and hampering the timetable for implementation,” he said.

“Ideally a grade separated interchange at this location would help separate the crossing and turning movements that are occurring and have a significant impact on the safety and operation of the roadway,” Edge added. “However this measure is beyond the immediate scope and fiscal reality we have in trying to address the concerns with this location.”

In addition to the upcoming work at 11 & 11, Edge said funding had been received to make significant equipment upgrades and operational changes at the NC 11/NC 561 intersection near the Ahoskie Inn. The planned changes there will enhance the safety of the traffic signal.

“The new signal design is underway and upon its completion we will install the new equipment and signal operation as soon as our schedule permits,” Edge said. “As a precursor to this work, we have already replaced the overhead lighted PREPARE TO STOP signs with newer LED signs. The newer signs should help with ongoing maintenance and provide increased visibility to the driver.”