Morehead City should support the N.C. Department of Transportation’s proposal to establish a superstreet design on the Highway 70 stretch between Arthur Farm Road and Gladys Teasley Lane. Otherwise, the city and county will eventually see additional stoplights that will create more congestion and dissatisfied travelers.

Longtime residents will remember that at one point Carteret County and particularly Atlantic Beach, were state news topics as travelers complained about the growing number of stoplights along U.S. Highway 70 from Raleigh to the county beaches. The complaints were so significant that the legislature got involved, directing the DOT to take action. The result was a DOT policy that put a cap on stoplights (the department prefers “traffic control devices”) to be allowed on the Hwy. 70 corridor from Raleigh to Atlantic Beach.

Carteret County is a peninsula, bordered on the north by the Neuse River and on the south by Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Entry into the county is restricted to three major roadways- N.C. Highway 101 into Beaufort, U.S. 70 and N.C. Highway 24 coming into Morehead City. The primary entry point is N.C. 70 which, in the next 10 years, will see exponential growth in traffic because it will be the terminus of I-42, now under construction.

Traffic along this portion of the highway is already heavy due to the growth of the county’s population and continued expansion of business and commerce in the city. The surge in tourism is further compounding the traffic flow and is creating an increasingly dangerous stretch of roadway.

In maintaining records of traffic accidents, the DOT has designated most of the highway stretch between Newport and the Highway 24 intersection in Morehead City as the most dangerous road section in the county.

Because of the increasing number of accidents, DOT officials have recommended to Morehead City Commissioners that they consider supporting the construction of a superstreet design along the half mile stretch between Arthur Farm Road and Gladys Teasley Lane. The design would remove several crossovers along the highway, eliminating left hand turns across traffic. To accommodate drivers seeking to cross over to the opposite side of the highway, large U-turns will be created at strategic locations along the highway.

The alternative to this design will be the addition of stop lights that will slow traffic down and in the process create areas of congestion during periods of high traffic volume, which will once again result in complaints.

During the DOT’s presentation on the proposed superstreet design to the Morehead City Town Board earlier this month, Councilman George Ballou noted that this design is similar to the 1.5-mile stretch between the Newport River Bridge in Morehead City and the Gallants Channel Bridge, Beaufort. “I’m a frequent flyer at the boat ramp on Radio Island and I kind of scratched my head at the very beginning, but it works, it does, and it’s good for safety,” he noted.

Mr. Ballou’s observations are accurate but they also raise the specter of questions and disagreement.

This is not the first time the DOT has attempted to create traffic control designs to improve safety. The stretch of Arendell Street between the Highway 24 intersection and going east to a point near Carteret Community College’s Culinary Arts building was originally constructed with a natural median. In the mid 1970’s that median was paved over, creating a center turn lane also known as a suicide lane, since it is accessible by cars coming from opposite directions.

In 2010 the DOT, citing the high number of accidents along this approximate 2.5-mile stretch, proposed the construction of a solid median between east and west bound lanes with strategically located crossover points. In many regards this design was similar to a superstreet design.

The town council, responding to an outcry from businesses located along this stretch, refused to endorse the DOT’s plans and it ended there.

Morehead City is not alone in dealing with superstreet proposals. This design has met with similar resistance from the town of Cape Carteret as well and for much the same reason. The merchants are opposed to any roadway designs that will, in their opinion, hinder access.

Currently there are limited commercial businesses along the stretch of roadway in Morehead City’s western region of highway 70 that is proposed for the superstreet design. So time may be on the city’s side if it is wise enough to endorse the concept. But this decision is not only impacted by timing but also by politics.

The town’s endorsement of the DOT’s superstreet proposal will require bold and farsighted decision making on the part of the board. It should also spur the town board to engage with the DOT further to consider expansion of this highway design within the city’s jurisdiction. There is no question, the continuing growth of both tourism and year-round population, combined with commercial expansion, will require additional action to handle growing traffic issues and now is the time for Morehead City to plan for the solutions.

(4) comments

Vintage Chief

There are several factors at play: (1) Far, far, far, far too many points of ingress & egress within MHC for the amount of traffic; (2) Cumbersome inclusion of a center suicide lane approachable from two opposing directions; and, (3) lack of controlled entry/exit to businesses. The suicide lane should be eliminated completely, the number of entry/exit points to businesses needs to be eliminated from HWY 70 by widening/expanding controlled signal interchanges with business access from within an area off of HWY 70 not directly from HWY 70. MHC was provided the opportunity to improve safety (first & foremost) by implementing a median (eliminating the suicide lane) with entry/exit points, but MHC refused to accommodate this proposal several years ago. This lack of foresight on the part of MHC reduced traffic speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph, did nothing to improve traffic flow and increased traffic congestion withing MHC. Very, very, very poor planning on the part of MHC. If MHC has its way, we'd still be traveling across Newport River via ferry. Time for MHC planners/commissioners to wake up.

noitall

Reducing the speed limit packs more cares into a given space. Reduce to zero and see what happens. THINK!

David Collins

As with any changes folks will get used to most anything . Stoplights do junk up the roads and are seldom synchronized . Folks frequently ignore then and just like speed limits are just a suggestion . Enforcement is dismal .

If this concept comes to fruition , to be sure folks will adapt with their own workarounds with predictable results .

noitall

Simply synchronize the lights. Not rocket science. Try it before doing anything.

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