Planning board recommends 15th Street meeting
Published 2:41 pm Thursday, August 25, 2016
The Washington Planning Board, during its meeting Tuesday, voted 4-0 to recommend the city notify property owners adjacent to the proposed 15th Street improvements project about project details and conduct a public meeting about the project.
A day after the City Council heard two men who have businesses in the project corridor voice their concerns with the project, the Planning Board heard from those two men and others with similar concerns, which center mostly around traffic medians. The majority of people who attended the meeting raised their hands when asked by the board if the proposed medians were at the root of their opposition to the project as proposed.
Charles Phillips, who directs commercial real-estate development for the Rich Co., wants the medians removed from the proposed project, saying they would limit access to business in the proposed project corridor. Phillips prefers having five lanes in the project corridor, with a turn lane in the middle.
Tomp Litchfield, another real-estate agent with the Rich Co., told the board that the medians would hinder economic development in the area. William Taylor, an executive with First Bank, expressed concerns that the project as proposed with hinder access to the bank’s new building on 15th Street.
The speakers said they would like for the North Carolina Department of Transportation reconsider the proposed project, especially the medians component of the project.
At the conclusion of the speakers’ remarks, board Chairman John Tate said, “We’re here tonight simply for informational purposes. We’re not going to be voting on anything. We did want to have a hearing to hear from you. I think we got the message. I don’t think we’re going to have any problems relaying the message,” Tate said.
After Tate made his statement, other board members discussed the issue. “When all this started, we were not, to my knowledge, we, the city, was not advised that this was going on, that they (DOT) were doing these kind of things. We were not included in the discussions on what they were going to do or how they were going to do it. It was a state thing. We really didn’t have any input until they came to us with drawings,” board member Dot Moate said.
What DOT did, according to Moate, was “create a monster for us.” She wants the city to take a stand against the project as proposed.
Two weeks ago, 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 —
http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/publicmeetings — 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.
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.