SNOW HILL — The long-awaited traffic signal at the dangerous intersection of Routes 113 and 12 near Snow Hill went live this week, ending years of consternation over the fatal crossroads.
Since the intersection reopened in 2006 after a major reconstruction project by the State Highway Administration (SHA), there have been about 60 accidents reported at the crossroads including multiple fatal accidents, the last coming in December when a Snow Hill man was killed after colliding with a vehicle attempting to cross the median. Worcester County officials implored SHA for a major reconfiguration of the deadly intersection, including a potential future overpass or at the very least, a traffic signal in the interim.
SHA responded with a number of possible solutions including a flashing yellow warning signal, rumble strips and “look again” signs advising motorists to check and recheck before crossing the intersection. When those traffic-calming devices failed to reduce the carnage, SHA opted to install “J-turns” at the intersection in an effort to prevent motorists from attempting to cross the lanes of traffic to the opposite side.
During an annual transportation meeting with the Worcester County Commissioners in October, SHA officials acknowledged changes were needed, but said a recent traffic study revealed a traffic signal was not warranted. However, after a public hearing late last year, SHA reversed its position after it became apparent a signal was needed despite lower than required traffic volumes because of the unique configuration of the intersection.
After years of accidents and months of often heated debate, the traffic signal has been installed and went live with Wednesday. Senator Jim Mathias (D-38), who worked with the county and SHA to help bring a traffic signal to the often deadly intersection, praised the partners and shareholders for making the light become a reality.
“I appreciate the will of the citizens, Worcester County Commissioners and SHA for understanding the urgent need for this traffic signal, which will save lives and reduce injuries to motorists,” he said this week. “The new traffic signal underscores the importance of working together as a team to accomplish big goals.”
Worcester County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, a school bus driver who also represents the Snow Hill area, has been the staunchest advocate for a traffic signal at the intersection of Routes 113 and 12 after personally witnessing several accidents at the crossroads after it was reconfigured in 2006. Shockley often took SHA officials to task at different meetings over the years for failing to recognize the need for change, but his tone was reconciliatory this week.
“The citizens of Snow Hill and surrounding areas are very thankful for the new traffic signal at the intersection,” he said. “Hopefully, this will create a safe condition at the U.S. 113-12 intersection.”
For their part, SHA officials were pleased with the ultimate decision to install a permanent traffic signal at the intersection and responded to the will of the people and the county’s elected officials.
“We are proud of our partnership with our community leaders and elected officials to move this project forward,” said District Engineer Donnie Drewer. “Safety is SHA’s number one priority and converting the existing flashing beacon to a full-color traffic signal is a tremendous step forward in improving safety along U.S. 113 in Snow Hill. We also need drivers to do their part and obey all basic rules of the road.”
On Tuesday, SHA officials were expected to place the new signal on a flashing mode, including a flashing yellow on Route 113 and a flashing red on Route 12, for the first 24 hours. SHA officials earlier this week placed temporary dynamic message signs to alert motorists of the new traffic signal. A full green-yellow-red signal at the intersection went live on Wednesday.
SHA crews installed permanent advanced warning signs with flashing beacons along Route 113 on the approaches to Route 12 to alert motorists when the signal is about to turn red and provide drivers with a chance to slow down when approaching the intersection. According to SHA’s most recent traffic study, roughly 8,000 vehicles pass through the intersection each day.