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Ahoskie traffic flow studied

AHOSKIE – A plan currently under study by the Ahoskie Town Council is aimed at improving traffic flow, particularly in an area at and near Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

At their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday morning, Council members, after listening to a presentation from Mark Freeman of Gibson Engineers, slightly adjusted his plan and scheduled a March 8 public hearing in order to solicit citizen comments prior to possibly moving forward to implement the changes.

This issue dates back to March of 2009 where Council ordered a traffic study of all Ahoskie streets. Four months later, Freeman provided an overview of his review of the traffic flow/parking issues and suggested a more in-depth study. That included the formation of a study group consisting of town officials. They met with residents living in the southwestern portion of town (the hospital area; south of Main Street and west of Academy Street), hearing complaints of driveway access (due to street side parking).

Officials with the Ahoskie Police Department and Ahoskie Fire Department were also part of the study, both voicing concerns about emergency access to homes in the study area. Roanoke-Chowan Hospital was also represented at each meeting of the study group.

“The study focused on the traffic flow, parking habits and congestion in this area of town,” Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said. “From that study emerged three different scenarios that you have before you today to consider.”

Of those options, the Council could decide not to take any action (leaving the street side parking as is); two, eliminating parking on the east side of streets running north and south and on the south side of streets running east and west; or, three, changing some streets to one-way thoroughfares.

“The more we talked about one-way streets we felt it would cause more problems,” Hammond noted. “It was the consensus of the study group to implement option two, which limits parking to one side of certain streets.”

The downside to that option, Hammond said, was that it eliminates 144 parking spaces currently in use or available for use. However, a recent move by hospital officials will cut that parking deficit in half. They have opened up a portion of their valet parking lot to hospital staff as well as paving a smaller area that will allow for additional parking.

“Another issue we’re having on many of these streets is people parking right up against (residential) driveways,” Hammond noted. “If a resident is backing out of their driveway, they can’t see what’s coming. A part of the new plan is to prohibit parking within six feet of either side of a private driveway. By implementing that plan it gives a resident much better visibility as they are backing onto a street.”

The town’s current ordinance prohibiting parking within 15 feet of an intersection will remain as written.

“We just need to do a better job of enforcing that,” Hammond said of the 15-foot rule.

In his presentation before Council, Freeman said one of the biggest concerns were narrow streets. He said the general rule of thumb for parked cars is that they take up about eight feet (width) of space. If parking is allowed on both sides of a street, then that consumes 16 feet of the pavement. If the same rule applies to moving vehicles (each needing eight feet of space) and two vehicles are traveling on the same street in opposite directions (taking into account vehicles parked on both sides), then the minimum street width is 32 feet.

“If you have a street less than 32 feet wide, and there are some in Ahoskie, it’s very difficult to have parking on both sides and have two-way traffic in the middle,” Freeman said. “It’s a case now when vehicles are meeting each other on those narrow streets, one stops and allows the other to come by. There’s just no room for two cars to meet.”

It’s on those narrow streets where Freeman suggested that parking be limited to one side. By implementing that as Hammond earlier noted (north/south or east/west side), it gives the plan some uniformity and eliminates guesswork on the part of the driver.

As far as the proposal was concerned over one-way streets, Freeman said his study considered Sunset, Curtis and Church streets as well as Pembroke Avenue. Sunset Street (west from Academy Street to Curtis Street) was the lone thoroughfare to emerge from that group as a one-way street. The traffic flow on Sunset, if made a one-way street, would be from west to east, better allowing the hospital traffic to access Academy Street.

“There are parking issues on both sides of Sunset,” Freeman noted. “A lot of folks don’t like the one way. Council needs to express their opinion on the one-way option for Sunset before we take this issue to a public hearing.”

Councilman O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. voiced objection to transforming Sunset to one-way between Academy and Curtis.

“There are so many cars that turn off Academy onto Sunset (from east to west) to access the doctor’s office (Ahoskie Family Physicians) and the drug store (DrugCo) located on that corner,” Suiter said. “I’m concerned about that. Those people will have to find another way to get to the doctor’s office and drug store.”

Suiter suggested leaving Sunset as a two-way street and eliminating parking on one side in order to alleviate congestion.

Another issue under consideration was vehicles parking on Ahoskie streets facing the wrong way (with the driver’s side of the vehicle adjacent to the curb). While that type of parking is not illegal, Freeman said motorists parking in this fashion perform two unsafe movements, driving on the wrong side of the road to park the vehicle and again when exiting the parking space.

Councilwoman Elaine Myers addressed parking on Memorial Drive at the hospital between Curtis and Pembroke. Currently, parking along that block is allowed on both sides; the proposal calls for parking only on the south side.

“It’s so much traffic there during the day,” Myers said. “I would suggest not to allow parking there during the day and timed parking after 5 or 6 p.m.”

Freeman also suggested the town invest in yellow paint to clearly mark the no parking areas and erect signage to warn motorists of the rules.

The Council approved Alternative 2 of the study, tweaking it to remove Sunset from consideration as a one-way street; not allowing daytime parking on Memorial between Curtis and Pembroke; instituting a six-foot no parking barrier on both sides of a private driveway and prohibiting “wrong-way” parking.

Due to the fact that the plan will change street side parking, Ahoskie will have to amend its current ordinance. That requires a public hearing, one set for the Council’s next meeting (10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 8).

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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