Superstreet opposition continues

Published 11:54 am Monday, July 30, 2018

MURFREESBORO – “I just don’t want us to sit here and get complacent,” said Murfreesboro Town Council member Bill Theodorakis here Wednesday during their regular council meeting.

Theodorakis was referring to the NCDOT’s proposed changes to the Murfreesboro Bypass. During their June 27 meeting, the Murfreesboro Town Council passed a resolution opposing the changes approved earlier in June by the Hertford County Commissioners. Since then, they have received no response back from the NCDOT.

The changes would transform US 158 outside of Murfreesboro into a “superstreet” design. Stoplights would be removed and the highway would be redesigned so that vehicles would no longer be able to make left turns at intersections. Drivers would have to turn right and then make a U-turn in a designated area.

The “superstreet” design, however, would not affect the stoplight and intersection on the western end of the bypass since that is located on the Northampton side of the county line.

Along with the road redesign, the plan also includes raising the speed limit to 60 mph along that portion of the highway. US 158 towards Winton and into Gates County have already previously implemented the “superstreet” design and speed limit change.

The resolution passed by the Council in June noted their concern that the changes had been approved without input from the Town of Murfreesboro or any of its citizens. It also stated their opposition was due to “feared adverse impact on the orderly flow of traffic to and from the Hertford County Middle School and Chowan University.”

Hertford County Middle School is located on NC 11 not far from the highway’s intersection with US 158. Chowan University is accessed from US 158 by Chowan College Road, located just west of the US 158/NC 11 intersection.

Theodorakis brought this topic up during his report at the end of the July 25 meeting in order to get an update on the situation. But Town Clerk Carolyn Brown said they haven’t heard back from anyone yet.

“I’m getting a lot of comments from the public,” Theodorakis said, adding that the Council should continue to speak up on the matter.

Along with the reasons stated in the resolution, Theodorakis also pointed out that the substitution of U-turns in place of left turns could negatively impact response time for emergency response vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances.

“Time is very valuable in [that] business,” he continued.

Theodorakis suggested the NCDOT lower the speed limit at those intersections to improve safety instead of raising it. He also mentioned contacting their state representatives for feedback on the situation too.

During the ensuing discussion, the rest of the Council was in general agreement with Theodorakis’ statements.

Turning to the town’s police chief, Theodorakis also requested input on the matter from a law enforcement perspective.

Chief David Griffith said he’d like to see some statistics on how much superstreets actually improve safety, but he would probably have to go through the NC Highway Patrol in order to access that. The Council asked him to look into what information he could find on the topic.

Mayor Hal Thomas agreed with the discussion, noting that they never had the opportunity to speak to anyone from the NCDOT about the proposal beforehand.

“If we’re silent, this will happen,” Theodorakis said, urging the Council to continue pursuing action against the highway changes.