Stoplight to pause traffic at busy retail entrances

Mary Katherine Murphy Staff Writer

November 12, 2013

LAURINBURG — Though disruption of traffic due to construction of a Walgreens on the corner of West Boulevard and U.S. 401 is temporary, installation of a stoplight in the area may throw a permanent hiccup into many drivers’ daily routine.

Construction of the Walgreens has caused a re-routing of the U.S. 401 service road Westwood Way so that it intersects with West Boulevard directly across from one of two entrances to the Walmart parking lot.

That new intersection, where a stoplight is currently being installed, is a few hundred feet from the light at the intersection of U.S. 401 and West Boulevard.

According to city planner Brandi Deese, the conditional use permit allowing the Walgreens property to be used for retail was initially passed by the city in 2009 for a prospective Staples location.

“The conditional use permit required a retail location to be there, so it didn’t matter to us whether it was office retail or phamaceutical type retail,” Deese said.

Though the planning board and city council at the time expressed concerns about changes to traffic patterns at the already busy intersection, U.S. 401 is maintained by the state.

“That was one of the major focuses of the conditional use permit, but we don’t necessarily have any jurisdiction over [N.C. Department of Transportation] streets,” Deese said. “They proposed some plans, but ultimately it was not up to the city to approve what the developer was proposing.”

According to DOT assistant district engineer Johnny Brock, the four-way stoplight will help regulate a “pretty substantial” flow of traffic in the area.

“You’ve got so much movement going on near that one intersection,” said Brock. “You’ve got people going into Walmart, turning out of Walmart, and people turning from Westwood Way, so it’s a bunch of movement.”

A traffic volume survey performed by DOT last year found that some 12,000 cars per day travel on U.S. 401 between Church Street and West Boulevard, and 16,000 cars per day use the portion of U.S. 401 between West Boulevard and U.S. 74.

Mayor Tommy Parker surmised that the light may have been needed to control traffic flow from the Walmart parking lot — which has two entrances a few hundred feet from each other — regardless of traffic added because of the Walgreens location.

“I think the state probably never anticipated the Walgreens going in there,” said Parker. “The state approved the Walmart site and basically now that Walgreens has come along they’re making some for some deficiencies that should have fallen to Walmart.”

Walmart shoppers randomly interviewed by The Laurinburg Exchange on Tuesday had mixed opinions about the change.

“The new traffic light will help people slow down,” said Laurinburg resident Richard Macy. “With a new business approved by the public there needs to be a new entrance and exit.”

Susan Mabe also agreed that the light would be a good thing, saying that taking a right turn out of the Walmart parking lot was hard, but to take a left is “almost impossible.”

But Roney Chavis, also of Laurinburg, said he wasn’t “sure how it would work out,” because it’s “too close to the other stoplight.” Cynthia Campell agreed, saying she thinks “its too close together with traffic coming through.”

“It may be a safety thing, or it may be a hindrance,” Wayne Ansley, a Walmart employee, said. “If it’s in sequence with the other light, then it should be fine. If not, then it’ll cause problems.”