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VIDEO: New 'Reduced Conflict Intersection' Near Sanford, N.C., to Be Built in 2025

Wed July 26, 2023 - Southeast Edition
The Rant

Relocating the intersection of North Carolina Highway 78 and U.S. Highway 1/15-501 south of Sanford will not begin construction until the summer of 2025, more than a year after the U.S. Open golf tournament takes place in nearby Pinehurst.

That was the word from representatives of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) during a recent briefing before the Lee County Commissioners, which also was given updates on the status of several other road projects across the county.

The Rant, a local news blog written by a former newspaper editor, reported that NCDOT Board member Lisa Mathis of Sanford and the state agency's Division 8 Engineer Patrick Norman provided the consultation at the most recent meeting of the county commissioners in response to a request from commission Chair Kirk Smith.

NCDOT's plans actually include two projects in the region south of Sanford along U.S. 1, both in response to planned development and increased traffic along one of the city's most heavily traveled roadways.

The first begins near the split of U.S. 1 and U.S. 15-501 at White Hill Road and progresses northward to a point that ends about 100 yds. south of the Tramway intersection.

The second project is roughly triangular in shape and begins just south of Bryan Drive and continues northward along U.S. 1 to a point just past Carthage Street. It also extends eastward for about a quarter of a mile along N.C. 78/Tramway Road before turning to the northwest and connecting with its Carthage Street boundary.

Norman explained that NCDOT has been doing survey work for the project since 2021, The Rant noted July 24, and has actively been obtaining the necessary right-of-way agreements with property owners during the past year.

Over the next 12 months and through the end of the mid-June 2024 U.S. Open tourney, the focus will move to relocating power and telecommunications cabling — work that could begin in the coming weeks or months.

Before the expected traffic congestion from the U.S. Open descends on the central North Carolina region, NCDOT hopes to get as much of the above-ground utility work done as possible. Afterwards, buried utilities like water and sewer lines will be moved, all in preparation for the beginning of construction that is set to start in August 2025 if all goes according to plan.

‘Reduced Conflict Intersection' to Be Completed by 2028

The redesign of the current junction of U.S. 1 and Center Church Road will transform it into a "reduced conflict intersection," known previously as a superstreet. Several of these unique intersections were installed a few years ago in the area when the N.C. 55 Bypass/G.B. Alford Highway was upgraded in the Wake County town of Holly Springs, The Rant noted.

The innovative design provides several benefits to a community by limiting the number of left turns onto or across a roadway, thus reducing the number of potential conflicts in the traffic flow. By keeping the north and southbound lanes open as long as possible, more traffic can be handled on the roadway without increasing delays.

Norman told The Rant that "the direct crossing and left turn movements from Center Church Road to existing N.C. 78 or northbound U.S. 1 will be eliminated. The same will be [true] for direct crossing and left turn movements from existing N.C. 78 to Center Church Road or southbound U.S. 1."

Instead, motorists will be required to turn right and travel along U.S. 1 for a short distance before making a U-turn at a designated place along the highway.

The design also will give the Sanford city officials, or NCDOT, the ability to adjust the timing of traffic signals in ways that allow the speeds at which drivers move through the corridor to be controlled, something that can be varied throughout the day depending on traffic conditions.

"It may be that the city and the county will find the ability to control traffic speeds during times of alternating light and heavy use as one of their most often-used tools in making this new technology work in years to come," Norman told the Lee County Commissioners. "It's the best way to make busy highways work for those who use them most."

Another benefit of the design that makes it attractive from a cost benefit perspective, Norman said, is that it requires much less right-of-way or property purchases than adding lanes or constructing interchanges or overpasses.

The $24 million reduced conflict intersection project will take three years to complete once construction starts in 2025, NCDOT noted.

Relocating Tramway Road's End

However, there is more to the Lee County road project than simply changing the type of intersection where two busy roadways meet.

NCDOT will make another major change to the flow of traffic by moving the actual end point of Tramway Road about a quarter of a mile to the north of its present location.

The agency's plan calls for relocating the road along a new path that would be located behind the VA Outpatient Clinic and the Westfield Rehabilitation and Health Center, and then connecting with U.S. 1's northern traffic flow directly across from where Pendergrass Road ties into the highway's southbound lanes.

Tramway Road's new exit point would hook up with U.S. 1 traffic headed north at a spot that would bring it through the present location of the WWGP/WFJA radio station as well as a transmission tower that stands directly behind it, and close to Discount Floors and Furniture just to the north before the Carthage Street exit.

Norman said NCDOT continues to be engaged in discussions with the ownership of the radio station about the impacts of the plan on its studios and tower, and that it is looking at options that could reduce some of those impacts and at others that could help facilitate any relocations that might be necessary.

NCDOT Also Provided Other Updates

In addition, Norman gave the commissioners brief updates on a few other NCDOT priorities within the county, including one on its bicycle plan that was adopted in 2011.

While there are currently no dedicated bike routes within Lee County, he said there is hope for funding to help improve some area roads to make them safer and easier for bicyclists to coexist with cars and trucks.

Norman explained that once a road has more than 1,000 vehicles traveling it per day, NCDOT begins to look at how that same traffic impacts bicyclists who may be sharing the road with them.

A transportation department survey found only three roads outside the major four-lane highways that begin to meet the definition of possible bicycle routes: Cumnock Road (3,200 vehicles per day), Colon Road (2,600 vehicles per day) and Lower Moncure Road (1,100 vehicles per day).

Of these, the existing pavement on Cumnock Road is rated as being in very good condition, Colon Road's surface is in good shape, and Lower Moncure Road is rated as being in poor condition. However, none of the three — or any others surveyed by NCDOT — has anywhere close to the recommended 5 ft. of lane width on either side of the road for bike traffic.

But while there are sources of funding available that could be applied to creating bike paths — most of which would be derived from state sources — they are not large enough to purchase the right-of-way needed to create any new lanes, according to The Rant.

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