SNOW HILL – The next phase of the Route 113 dualization will begin in March 2008, and before then the County Commissioners would like to vet the design to avoid problems like the median at the highway’s Route 12 intersection.
After some prodding during an appearance in front of the Commissioners Tuesday, State Highway Administration (SHA) District Engineer Donnie Drewer agreed to show the commissioners the plans that have already been designed.
The commissioners have been attempting to get a look at the plans for weeks, sending a written request to Drewer in mid-June. The commissioners never received a reply.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Drewer said that the letter arrived after the project had been sent out for bid.
Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who has been at the forefront of the calls to see the plans, insisted that the commissioners be included.
“We have had problems down here with [Routes] 12 and 113,” Shockley said, referring to a now notorious intersection that has seen 10 accidents since the improved road was opened to traffic at the end of 2006. No lives have been lost, but 15 vehicles have been totaled.
“If I had seen the design, I would have said it would not work,” Shockley said.
The improved highway, said Shockley, is now more dangerous than before the work was done.
“No one’s died. That’s the fortunate thing,” Shockley said.
“We share your concern about Route 12 and 113,” Drewer said.
SHA has met with county officials and concerned citizens more than once over the intersection. Another accident at the intersection occurred mere hours before the most recent meeting, in July, began.
Concerns over the median may be misplaced, Drewer said later, because the large vehicles expected to have trouble at the crossing of Routes 12 and 113 have not been involved in accidents there.
The Board of Education changed bus routes in the area to avoid that intersection after the changes were made.
SHA has made minor changes to the crossing, improving sightlines, and adding signs, but the agency has nixed adding a stoplight.
“A signal is not warranted. It doesn’t even come close to being warranted,” Drewer said.
Drewer said he would stretch the point if the traffic numbers were closer to the cut off level, but the vehicle counts are simply too low.
SHA may require headlight use in that area of Route 113, as it is already in the single lane portions of the highway.
“We’re not experiencing this at night time. It’s just the daytime,” Drewer said.
An overpass would solve the problem there, Shockley said.
“The overpass is stage five,” Drewer said.
Phase 5 will be the last stage of improvements to Route 113. The next stage is Phase 2a. Meanwhile, Drewer has considered adding J-turns, although is it not an option he wants to pursue, or eliminating left hand turns which will make the intersections wider. He also mentioned rebuilding an emergency crossover to allow for U-turns.
Shockley continued to insist he would like to see plans for Phase 2a. Drewer replied that he did not have them with him.
For the most part, the other commissioners agreed with Shockley on seeing the plans.
“People should know what’s happening. People should know about the design,” Commissioner Linda Busick said. “I think it’s our duty to get as much information as we can.”
Speaking of SHA, Busick said, “They’re not here. They don’t know the nature of the traffic.”
Commissioner Jim Purnell disagreed with Shockley.
“I don’t think we need to be involved in seeing the design of the road,” Purnell said.
Although acknowledging that the Route 12 intersection is a serious problem, Purnell remarked there are accidents on Route 113 in the north of the county, but people are not complaining to SHA or the commissioners.
The timetable for the next phase of Route 113 also sparked some discomfort.
“I thought there would be better continuity in working on that road,” Boggs said.
Phase 2a was intended to go through a design-build process, where only part of the design is complete when the work starts, with the remainder planned as the project continues. The contractor has decided to wait, however.
“He wanted the full design, to get all the permits,” Drewer said. “Even starting in the spring, he’s saying by fall of next year he won’t have it complete but traffic should be on the dualized section.”
The $14.5 million price tag for the two-and-a-half-mile section of Route 113, from Hayes Landing Rd. south to Goody Hill Rd., has been funded, Drewer said. Improvements to the remainder of the highway, roughly 10 miles, have not been funded.
After lengthy discussion at the commissioner meeting, Drewer finally agreed to meet with the commissioners to go over the plans for Phase 2a. Later, Drewer, when pressed, said he would consider making changes suggested by the commissioners if feasible as to cost and scheduling.