City, DOT officials to discuss 15th Street project

Published 5:45 pm Friday, February 10, 2017


Washington officials and N.C. Department of Transportation representatives are scheduled to discuss the 15th Street widening and access management project at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20.

The meeting, scheduled to be conducted in the Council Chambers at City Hall, will be open to the public, but there will be no forum for public comments.

The meeting stems from the City Council’s unanimous decision during its Dec. 12, 2016, meeting to oppose the 15th Street project as currently proposed by DOT. The wording of Councilman Doug Mercer’s motion left the door open for another plan to be proposed for consideration.

In August 2016, the North Carolina Department of Transportation conducted an informational meeting about the project, which called for converting the existing multi-lane road into a four-lane, raised-median divided road. The project was designed to improve overall traffic flow and traffic safety. The project also included median breaks for left turns as traffic volumes warrant. U-turn locations will be provided at several locations.

Some residents and business owners along the project corridor opposed raised medians and other elements of the proposed project. In October 2016, City Manager Bobby Roberson said residents’ concerns have caught the attention of DOT, which modified the plan. Despite DOT’s modifications to the project, those residents and business owners remained unhappy with the project.

DOT spokesmen have said the project’s goal was to reduce the number of vehicles crashes on 15th Street. Crashes on the western section of the project corridor occur about three times more frequently than crashes on similar roads in other areas of the state, according to DOT figures.

A group of business owners and residents along 15th Street and others interested in the Feb. 20 meeting issued the following statement: “On December 12, 2016, the City Council, in response to the comments of several Washington residents and an overflowing crowd, voted unanimously to reject the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) plan to dramatically alter the design of 15th Street at an estimated cost of over 16 million dollars.

“The DOT was given permission to make a second presentation to the Council on February 20. The purpose of that meeting has not yet been made clear to those concerned with the many negative consequences of the project as originally presented. A reasonable assumption would be that the meeting is being called to allow the DOT to propose changes to the design in hopes of gaining Council approval. In the absence of an explanation from the DOT, however, we cannot be sure.

“The Council generously allowed time for the public to be heard on the DOT’s original design in December. Whether the original design is re-presented or an amended design is presented on February 20, we hope the Council will refrain from voting until the people of Washington have had the opportunity to verbally respond during a Council meeting.”





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