Businesses concerned about 15th Street changes

Published 5:23 pm Thursday, August 18, 2016

Washington business owners worried about how the proposed 15th Street improvement project could affect their businesses may have an opportunity to share their concerns with city officials.

The City Council is expected to consider providing that proposal during its meeting Monday.

The proposed project runs from U.S. Highway 17 Business to U.S. Highway 264 (near Vidant Beaufort Hospital).

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Transportation conducted an informational meeting about the project, which calls for converting the existing multi-lane road into a four-lane, raised median divided road. The project is designed to improve overall traffic flow and traffic safety. Preliminary project designs are on the project website — — for public review and comment. The project also includes median breaks for left turns as traffic volumes warrant. U-turn locations will be provided at several locations.

“The reason I am bringing this information to City Council is to establish a process for local business owners to bring their concerns to the city so we can develop a strategy that will lessen the impact on local businesses along the corridor and still maintain the safety concerns for all of our citizens,” City Manager Bobby Roberson wrote in a memorandum to the mayor and council members. Roberson’s memorandum notes that Pat Griffin and Richard Gerard want to express their concerns about the project to the council.

The project’s roots go back to 2000, according to DOT. The initial project called for improvements in the section of 15th Street from Carolina Avenue (U.S. Highway 17 Business) to the Pierce Street area. The proposed improvements called for a divided road with a median separating the travel lanes. The project’s scope has changed several times in recent years.

In late 2014, Griffin, a city businessman, and Dr. Timothy Klugh, who was with the eyecarecenter in Washington then, expressed concerns that the project, as proposed then, would decrease customer traffic to some businesses in the project area. In 2014, Griffin said some property owners along the segment of street proposed for the project opposed 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 then.

Last summer, John Rouse, a DOT engineer, told the Washington City Council the project had been approved with a $16.2 million budget, with construction to start in 2023. A DOT document dated Nov. 9, 2015, and modified Jan. 6 indicates construction has been moved up to 2019.

DOT spokesmen said the project’s goal is to reduce the number of vehicles crashes on 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.


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.

email author More by Mike