15th Street traffic and safety concerns

Published 11:24 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

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I’ve had the honor to live in the Washington area for the last 38 years. I came to Washington in 1984 to work at National Spinning as head of the machine audit program.  I was previously at the Warsaw plant as the maintenance manager. Even though I have lived in North Carolina for 45 years, some would still consider me a Yankee.

I love living here. I couldn’t imagine living in a large city with the crowds, crime and all that traffic plus the cities are quickly going downhill from my perspective.  Local traffic is the one thing that concerns me even though it’s not nearly as bad as it is in the city. I’m used to having very little.

Washington grew a little bit in the last census and the county population was down, mostly in the eastern part of the county. You would think there would be less traffic but there is more.  Everybody must own a car and they most certainly drive more. More development has also taken place.

15th Street is my main concern. At times, the traffic in the business area is so bad that I don’t feel safe driving in it. Plus, drivers just love to cut in and out of traffic. I know there have been several wrecks because I have seen them. In some ways, I would like to blame the drivers because they seem to be more aggressive but the road is something that can be fixed.

The original project in 2016 to improve 15th Steet was opposed by city council. Many residents and businesses opposed the concrete mediums in particular. In 2020, city council decided to take another look at 15th street because of safety concerns.

In 2021, the city paid Stantec Engineering $75,000 to do a redesign of 15th Street from Carolina Avenue to Brown Street. The process included input from the citizens.

North Carolina Department of Transportation overview says planning and development are underway to upgrade 1.8 miles of 15th Street in Washington. Project timeline is to begin right of way acquisition and utility relocation in August 2025. Actual construction would begin in June 2028.

Department of Transportation projections are subject to change so there’s no guarantee that the present dates will be good in the future. From 2016 to 2028 is a long time to start construction. I believe it is time to get moving.

Al Klemm is a Washington resident and a former Beaufort County Commissioner.