Council OKs 15th Street project

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Despite concerns voiced by two businessmen, Washington’s City Council unanimously voted for a project that would improve safety on a section of West 15th Street.

Dr. Timothy Klugh, with the eyecarecenter in Washington, and Pat Griffin, a city businessman, expressed concerns that the proposed project would decrease customer traffic to some businesses in the project area.

The plan is somewhat different than one proposed last year. The council’s formal approval of the revised plan came during its meeting Monday. The project’s roots go back to 2000, according to Dwayne Alligood, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The revised plan calls for improvements in the section of 15th Street from Carolina Avenue (U.S. Highway 17 Business) to the Pierce Street area. The proposed improvements call for a divided road with a median separating the travel lanes.

Alligood said the project’s goal is to reduce the number of vehicles crashes on that section of 15th Street. Those crashes on that section of road occur about three times more frequently than crashes on similar roads in other areas of the state, according to DOT figures.

“What that would do, we would put a center median in there and provide turn lanes at signalized intersections. If there are places in between where we can provide a crossover, then we would do that. That would be a channelized crossover. It wouldn’t be a full opening. It would be where you could make a left turn off the main line,” Alligood told the council in January.

Haywood Daughtry, a safety engineer with DOT, said the project is about “keeping local people alive.”

DOT has been waiting for the city to approve the project before beginning design work on it. DOT officials had told the city it would not move ahead with the proposed project until the city formally endorsed it. If the city had rejected the proposed project, it would have been removed from future funding consideration, according to DOT officials.

Klugh said he only learned of the proposed project Monday.

“I have concerns about that project because … there’s going to be a median put in the center of 15th Street. My concerns are that my business, along with several others on that street, will suffer from not being able to make a left-hand turn into my business. Now, I realize that there’s been a lot of accidents on 15th Street. I’ve been there for 10 or 15 years now.”

Klugh said perhaps there’s an alternative to the proposed project, an alternative that would call for widening the street and putting in a turning lane instead of a median or simply slowing traffic on the street.

“I have the same concerns that Dr. Klugh does. I see that you’re talking about approving it. As of today (Monday), I could not find anybody who knew what you were going to approve on this plan. We will lose businesses if you put a median down there. Some of them have clauses in their leases that they can close and move,” Griffin said.

The proposed project has been publicized since fall of last year.

Griffin said some property owners along the segment of street proposed for the project oppose the proposal. They also fear it would harm their businesses, he said.

“Some of them have said they would take it to court if they have to,” Griffin said.

Once the project has been designed, DOT would hold a public hearing on the design to gather public input on the proposed project.

“They (DOT) were looking for this council’s support of that project before they move forward with spending money on doing the actual design,” City Manager Brian Alligood said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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