LAURINBURG — The chairman of the county commissioners is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the proposed four-way stop at U.S. 501 and Old Wire Road expected to be erected next week.
The Scotland County Board of Commissioners and a numerous residents have voiced concerns about the proposed change at Five Points.
Officials with the state Department of Transportation met with commissioners last week to explain that the four-way stop was a temporary measure while the state pursues the funding to construct a roundabout, overpass, or some other permanent solution.
“If it will make that intersection safer, if it will keep one person from being killed in the next 18 months, I think that’s the direction we need to go in, rather than just leaving it as is, which in my opinion is not really an answer,” said Guy McCook, chairman of the board of commissioners.
Currently, traffic on U.S. 501 has the right of way at that intersection, and motorists on Old Wire Road are directed to stop. A four-way stop is expected to be in place by mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
According to DOT District Engineer Rob Stone, the use of four-way stops rather than stop lights has proven to be effective in reducing the severity of accidents in similar locations around the state.
“We wouldn’t put anything in there that would not improve the conditions,” Stone said. “We’ve done similar treatments in other locations across the state and it has tremendously reduced the crashes.
“A stop light is just not appropriate at this location. We’ve had issues with traffic signals in isolated areas like this, plus before we install traffic signals we have to meet certain traffic warrants… if it doesn’t meet that, the traffic signal causes more problems than it can help.”
In a 24-hour period, the Five Points intersection averages 5,500 vehicles on U.S. 501 and 2,500 on Old Wire Road, the vast majority of which travel straight through. Between Jan. 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2011, the intersection saw 39 crashes.
An overpass was proposed last year, but the projected cost was more than the $2.5 million in Spot Safety funds allocated for it. Additional funds — around $3 million — would have to come from DOT strategic improvement funds.
“We were still having crashes at the intersection, and we just didn’t feel we could wait another year or two years to get something in place,” Stone said.
On Wednesday, stop signs will be erected and rumble strips added on either side of U.S. 501 approaching the intersection, to alert drivers to the new traffic pattern.
On the north side of the intersection, the rumble strip will be added on top of the hill that contributes to the intersection’s troubles.
“It will be well before you get to the intersection — we have a standard and we’re actually going to double the distance that we usually put on those,” said Stone.
When negotiating the four-way stop, drivers are reminded that the first vehicle to reach the intersection has the right of way, and when two or more vehicle reach the intersection at a time the driver to the right has the right of way.
“We’ve got professional traffic engineers working on this issue; we need to let them do their job and hold them accountable to correcting an issue that for us is a safety issue for our family and friends and the people who travel through our community,” McCook said.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.