City Council plans to fund two proposed traffic lights along S. 3rd Street

City Council will consider signing a resolution Tuesday to allow WMPO to apply for a $2.4 million grant to install two red lights on 3rd Street at Ann and Orange streets. The city will be required to provide a 20% match if the money is awarded. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — If City Council approves a resolution on Tuesday, it would give the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization the go-ahead to apply for a $2 million grant to fund the installation of stop lights on South 3rd Street . The grant also requires the city to cover part of the price.

Although the NCDOT does not have a designated funding source for stop lights to be erected on the state-maintained road, it has approved two to be built a block apart on S. 3rd – one at Orange intersection, the other at Ann. WMPO will seek $2,430,000 from the Directly Attributable Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP-DA) and, if granted, the city must match it by 20%, for a total of $486,080.

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The City of Wilmington will manage the stop light installation “to ensure consistency with the project being completed,” City Manager Tony Caudle wrote in a letter, included in the agenda package for consideration by the advice. Recently a median was built on 3rd Market Street at the Wharf for limit turns and prevent vehicles from crossing in the middle of heavy traffic.

The increase in traffic in recent years worries residents. Data from the city of Wilmington indicated that more than 15,400 vehicles traveled the half-mile stretch of US 17 Business daily. NCDOT’s regional traffic safety division and representatives from the city’s traffic engineering department met with residents last fall. Many have expressed concerns about the speeding vehicles in the historic district, the narrow lane configuration in combination with on-street parking, and the dangers to pedestrians.

While North 3rd Street, dotted with businesses, has stop lights at every cross section from Market to Red Cross, the only stop lights on South 3rd – a historic residential area – are at Market and again at Castle streets.

The NCDOT analyzed all of the streets that intersect between the two points, including Dock, Orange, Ann, Nun, and Church. The National Transport Agency carried out an analysis of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, existing site conditions and accident history.

Police reports show more than 50 crashes – an average of one a week – took place on 3rd South, Market Streets in Castle between January and December 2021. They ranged from side blows to rear ends, damage to parked vehicles and incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists. .

The NCDOT distinguished that it only considers reports written by law enforcement – ​​assuming that many are not officially documented.

Council asked city staff to petition residents to consider providing the matching funding to install the two traffic lights. Staff delivered over 650 signatures.

One petitioner wrote: ‘The pedestrian crossing at Third and Ann is quite dangerous as drivers do not stop at flashing yellow lights. We need a red light there. I saw a city bus not stopping, as well as a police car.

Part of the city’s River to Sea Bikeway, the Ann Street crosswalk is often used by school-aged children, seniors and visitors, staff noted in their results. It easily connects the area’s historic neighborhoods to businesses, offices, schools, restaurants, museums, tourist attractions and other downtown amenities.

In 2010, the crossing was introduced as the city’s first cycle boulevard – intended to give cyclists priority over motorists to cross safely. It was implemented with flashing warning lights, costing $20,000 each. Pedestrians and cyclists press the button to activate the lights, in turn alerting motorists to allow passers-by to navigate 3rd Street.

Yet staff found that drivers are often “confused” and rarely stop. He concludes that the crosswalk has proven ineffective.

“That the pedestrian-activated amber light could escalate the situation has been generally accepted by all city and state officials with whom we have discussed this matter,” the staff explained. “Since last October alone, two people have been hit in the pedestrian crossing while the yellow lights were flashing. One was a child, a student from nearby St Mary’s School, who was hit by a car and slammed into the car’s windscreen.

Many petitioners requested that the speed limit be reduced along 3rd Street as well; currently it is 35 miles per hour. The city of Wilmington found that the average speed traveled is 35.4, but the 85th percentile peaks at 40.1 miles per hour. It also says that every day more than 2,100 cars travel 45 miles per hour on the street.

However, the speed reduction determined by the NCDOT will not be pursued at this time. Instead, he’s making sure the proper signage is posted in visible places and has suggested the city install speed camera signs to collect more data and notify local law enforcement to keep an eye out. closer areas.

Approving stop lights, he noted, would be a good first step in mitigating the problems. Specifically, putting one on Orange Street, he explained, would help drivers turn safely onto 3rd. Views of oncoming traffic are often obstructed by cars parked along the street. As the 3rd is flanked by historic residences, property damage was also reported due to traffic incidents.

NCDOT projected that the two stop lights would cost $1.4 million, but city staff estimate funding could be about $1 million more. They based the prices on recent offers that have been rejected for similar projects, showing that the needs are “significantly higher than the NCDOT estimate”. Staff also took into consideration “additional work that could reasonably be expected during construction, as well as other grant-related project costs”.

Although not part of the five-year capital improvement plan adopted by the city, staff recommended adding it as a priority for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, if the STBGP-DA grant money be allocated.

“The City is the only immediate source of funding,” the documents say.

WMPO has a September 15 deadline to request $2.4 million. The board will vote at the meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2 whether it will sign a resolution for the agency to move forward, also accepting its consideration of $480,000.

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