Fifteenth Street improvements planned for near future

Published 6:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

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The Fifteenth Street and Carolina Avenue area will look very different in the next three to five years if the City of Washington’s plans for the area come to fruition. 

The City of Washington is exercising its partnership of two years with Electricities of North Carolina and Retail Strategies, LLC to assist with recruiting and retaining traditional and dining businesses, Mayor Donald Sadler said. 

This means big box stores and chain restaurants could be added to that area. They have sent pitches to multiple corporations including Chick-Fil-A. 

Sadler said it would be “great” if Washington could attract a Chick-Fil-A, because “citizens are asking for it.” 

Also, he said it would be “great” if investors would be interested in helping the city push economic development projects forward, adding it could bring opportunities to the city. 

That’s not all. 

The City of Washington continues to work on redesigning Fifteenth Street to address safety concerns and traffic congestion. 

At this time, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is in the process of hiring an engineering firm to redesign the street and will begin working on the project in the coming months, according to Jeff Cabaniss, a highway division two division engineer with the department. 

NCDOT is taking elements from a design completed by Stantec Engineering in 2021 for the city. 

Those plans reduced the road from four lanes, two in each direction, to two with pocket medians and dedicated left turn lanes. 

The plans also incorporated sidewalks and bicycle paths in addition to a roundabout where Brown Street and 12th Street intersect with 15th Street. 

Crosswalks would have changed to traffic signals at the major intersections and an improved entryway would have been added to the eastern entrance crossing U.S. 17 Business and Carolina Avenue, the Daily News reported in 2021. 

NCDOT did not approve that plan, because it did not adequately address current and future traffic congestion, Sadler said. 

He continued to say he is hopeful that NCDOT has listened to the city council’s concerns about pedestrian and bicyclists’ safety on Fifteenth Street.  

One of which is to reduce the speed limit on Fifteenth Street to 35 mph. 

Sadler said it’s a goal for future designs to reduce the speed limit. 

The city is changing the landscape of the Fifteenth Street and Carolina Avenue area to increase tourism and have residents live, work and spend their dollars in Washington as opposed to neighboring cities and counties. 

“To have our citizens and for others to travel to Washington for that same type of lifestyle,” Sadler said about citizens and tourists socializing and/or shopping in the city. 

From an economic development perspective, “it will be a great change for Washington” to see more retail and dining establishments added to the Fifteenth Street and Carolina Avenue area, Sadler said. 

He noted that the City has to balance its charming small town feel with possible, future economic growth. “Our historic district has a beautiful small town charm that will not be interrupted at all, because none of the growth would be in that area.” 

Mayor Sadler wants Washington residents to know as they begin to see change occurring in the city is “we want to provide opportunities for our citizens, want them to know we hear them and we want to recruit some of the businesses and some of the restaurants they are asking for,” 

“We are going to attract what we can and maintain the charm of our city, but have our city grow at the same time.”