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Murfreesboro Bypass redesign unveiled

WINTON – If things go as planned, the Murfreesboro Bypass (US 158/258) will be void of at least two of its three traffic signals by sometimes next year.

That’s the plan presented by North Carolina DOT to the Hertford County Board of Commissioners here last month.

James Dunlop, a Congestion Management Engineer with NCDOT’s Transportation Mobility and Safety Division, made the presentation. He stated that traffic signals – such as currently exist on the Hertford County portion of the bypass at its intersections with Benthall Bridge Road / Spring Avenue Extension and NC 11/US 258 North Business – often lead motorists to experience a false sense of security.

“Traffic signals don’t always solve a problematic intersection, they just create a different problem,” Dunlop said. “To that end, NCDOT has purposely started reducing the number of traffic signals on high-speed, multi-lane roads.”

Dunlop said NCDOT is proposing to install Reduced Conflict Intersections (RCI) along the Murfreesboro Bypass. Much like the Superstreet design that’s used on the four-lane section of US 158, east of the NC 11 intersection to Winton and then on into Gates County, a RCI restricts cross-street traffic from going straight through or making left turns at a divided highway intersection.

The cross streets referenced in this case are Benthall Bridge Road / Spring Avenue Extension and NC 11/US 258 North Business.

There is a third stoplight on the Murfreesboro Bypass, located on the west end in Northampton County at the intersection of US 258 South.

Dunlop said at a RCI, cross-street traffic can only turn right. If the motorist needs to go in the opposite direction, a u-turn lane will be installed a short distance away.

He added that the numbers have shown a dramatic decrease in motor vehicle crashes (as much as 46 percent less) and injuries/fatalities (up to 63 percent less) at divided highway intersections, without traffic signals, where the RCI method is used.

“There are 32 conflict points, 16 of which are crossing conflicts, at a conventional intersection where motorists are allowed to continue straight or make left or right turns,” Dunlop noted. “At a RCI intersection, there are only 14 conflict points, two of which are crossing conflicts.”

Another safety concern, according to Dunlop, at the Murfreesboro Bypass intersection with Benthall Bridge Road / Spring Avenue Extension is the 160-foot gap that motorists must cross if they are keeping straight or making a left-hand turn.

“That’s an unusually long path to cross,” he stressed.

Dunlop cited a project NCDOT completed at the Elizabethtown Bypass and Peanut Plant Road intersection. In the three years prior to a RCI being used, there were 24 motor vehicle accidents, 21 of which led to injuries. In the three years since, there have been two wrecks and no injuries.

“If a driver makes a mistake at a RCI, this type of traffic pattern lessens the severity of the mistake,” Dunlop stated.

A question was posed about the possibility of installing an overpass, with entrance/exit ramps to the bypass, at the NC 11 / US 258 North Business intersection. A few of the commissioners expressed a desire to have that overpass, primarily for the safety and convenience of motorists, to include school buses, traveling to and from Hertford County Middle School.

“A grade separation [overpass] there is being considered there, but it may not be in the [NCDOT] budget,” Dunlop answered.

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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