ALLENTON — A near accident this past week close to East Robeson Elementary School has the chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners calling for the N.C. Department of Transportation to make safety improvements at Seventh Street and Old Allenton Road.
Tom Taylor, who also is chief of the Allenton Volunteer Fire Department, said there have been major safety concerns at the intersection dating back to 1997. Over the years, he has personally responded to numerous wrecks, some of which included injuries.
“There have been a bunch of wrecks. They occur all the time,” Taylor said. “A lot of people just don’t pay attention. They pull right out in front of oncoming traffic.”
During a 15-minute period Monday, Taylor observed 10 vehicles roll through the stop signal on Old Allenton Road.
“DOT may not agree with us, but we need a stop light or four-way stop at this intersection,” he said.
According to Taylor, when school begins later this month traffic each morning and afternoon will back up at least 250 yards from the intersection to East Robeson Elementary School as vehicles try to enter and exit school property.
“With all the vehicles and school buses trying to get in and out, there are going to be problems,” he said. “As a fire chief, I really know the need for something to be done to improve safety, and as a commissioner keeping the people of our county safe is important to me. We are supposed to look after them.”
Taylor said he is not sure if there have been any fatalities at the intersection, but he said he has been told by county communications personnel that during the past five years there have been 16 accidents.
Chuck Miller, state district engineer for the Department of Transportation, confirmed Monday that the department, in response to safety complaints, has conducted some investigations over the years that have led to new safety measures being implemented.
As the result of a 1997 investigation flashers were added to better control traffic flow, Miller said. In May 2015 an investigation concluded that “pavement marking changes should better make motorists on the side street (Old Allenton Road) able to determine the best stopping location for them to see vehicles approaching on the mainline (Seventh Street).”
The last two investigations were conducted in March 2016 in response to complaints filed by County Manager Ricky Harris on behalf of the county commissioners, and Melissa Flowers, who at the time was principal at East Robeson Elementary School.
The commissioners wanted to see rumble strips installed to slow traffic down, Miller said.
“Our investigation at that time didn’t find any accident pattern that rumble strips could correct,” he said.
As a result of an investigation into the principal’s concerns, a 45-mph school zone was installed on Seventh Street, he said. The school zone sign on Seventh Street now indicates speed to be limited to 40 mph.
Miller said Monday he was not sure if any fatalities have occurred at the intersection or how many accidents have taken place. He is in the process of pulling a five-year history on the intersection to review accidents figures and see if there have been any fatalities. He also is reviewing Transporation Department data to determine what effect, if any, the pavement marking changes made as a result of the 2015 investigation have had on accident counts.
Taylor said Monday that Miller has requested that he send the department another letter outlining his specific safety concerns pertaining to the intersection.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-415-5165.