Proposed 15th Street redesign shifts traffic to US-264

Published 8:19 pm Thursday, March 25, 2021

Drivers approaching Washington from the west on the way to the coast and those heading west from Bath or Belhaven might do a doubletake when their GPS directs them away from 15th Street sometime next year.

At least that’s the plan, according to the Stantec Engineering road resign concept.

The three-day virtual design workshop concluded Thursday evening with the suggestion that motorists should entertain the thought of using Highway 264 to travel east and west through town instead of using 15th Street as the cut-through.

“We think 15th Street works best as a local road with all the businesses, neighborhoods and the hospital in that area,” project manager Mike Rutkowski said. “All our design suggestions are based on making the road safer and more pedestrian/bicycle friendly, so it’s used for short trips to the grocery store, the doctor’s office or to get to and from work. We want through traffic to use 264 as much as possible.”

Rutkowski also showed the virtual crowd a rendering of the eastern entrance crossing U.S. 17 Business/Carolina Avenue that showed brick pavers, stamped asphalt crosswalks and updated traffic signals.

“We want to create an eastern gateway, so people know they are entering a different part of town,” Rutkowski said. “They should expect to slow down and encounter bikes and pedestrians. We’d like to see trees in the median to create a canopy affect.”

During Tuesday and Wednesday’s session Rutkowski revealed plans to shrink the road from four to two lanes with pocket medians and dedicated left turn lanes. The current 60 foot right of way would leave room for sidewalks on both sides and a roundabout at the western edge where Brown and 12th Street intersect with 15th.

“There is no silver bullet and there will have to be compromise throughout this process,” Rutkowski said. “We need a workable plan that the state Department of Transportation will pay for since they own the road and one that turns a dangerous, outdated road into a safe, modern one that will encourage private redevelopment once it’s finished.”

The next step is for Stantec to nail down a final design, get a cost estimate, then hold an open house in May for more public input, then send the plan to the city council for approval before taking it to the DOT.

“We are progressing on schedule,” Rutkowski said. “We don’t have a construction timeline or a final cost estimate yet, but we are getting there.”