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The 60 million dollar question

Even after hearing a long, detailed explanation from Department of Transportation officials, I’m still not convinced that placing a dirt pile at the NC 11 & 11 intersection is the answer to the problems there.

That’s not a statement on my behalf that DOT’s dirt won’t work. As of this writing (Sunday, Aug. 22), there hasn’t been an accident at 11 & 11 since the state converted that junction from a crossroads to a T-intersection on Aug. 9.

Perhaps my concern is more of an aesthetic nature. Perhaps it’s more of being embarrassed by what out-of-area motorists are saying as they travel past the ugly mound of dirt. What are they thinking….is there a top-secret development taking shape on the east side of the dirt pile (similar to a new business covering their windows with paper until it opens)? Or are our local citizens so unskilled as drivers that state officials had to step in and prevent us from hurting or killing ourselves?

While the last statement is in no way meant to further cause grief on family members who have lost loved ones to accidents there, the truth of the matter is that mental lapses by drivers have caused all accidents (fatal and non-fatal) at 11 & 11.

DOT numbers show that of the 140 reported accidents at 11 & 11 since 1990, 120 are “angle crashes” – meaning the accident occurred after a motorist, heading east or west, came to a stop and then pulled out in front of a vehicle traveling north or south.

If that was a “limited sight” intersection, I could understand the high number of angle-type collisions. However, a driver coming to a halt at the stop signs located on the east and west side of that intersection can see a mile in both directions. There are long, unobstructed straight-aways to the north and south. How someone misses seeing an oncoming vehicle is beyond my imagination.

One would think there would be more angle-type crashes at Frazier’s Crossroads (NC 561 and Union Road near the Ahoskie Inn). There is very limited sight visibility there, but yet an extraordinarily low number of reported accidents.

During their Aug. 13 meeting with the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, regional DOT officials explained the reasoning for our new pile of dirt. They claim a stoplight would not address the problem and that the traffic numbers at the 11 & 11 intersection did not warrant the installation of a stoplight….(but yet the traffic count at US 13 and Modlin Road did???).

I drew a simple observation from that meeting (one I attended). Why did DOT discuss the changes with our local leaders after they made them? Wouldn’t it be wise to discuss the plan before it was implemented?

Then, to compound the issue, I attended the DOT’s public hearing in Winton last Thursday where plans were announced to spend nearly 60 million in taxpayer dollars to widen, to four lanes, US 158/13 between Winton and Tar Heel Barbecue in Gates County. That 7.1 mile plan, which removes eight homes and three businesses, starts and ends at a two-lane road. Whose bright idea was that?

For some reason, DOT can spend $56.8 million on a road improvement project that nobody wants, but say they don’t have $6 million to build an overpass over 11 & 11 that everybody wants.

No wonder the State of North Carolina is facing a projected $3 billion deficit.

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.)

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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