Signs proclaiming “stop the medians” have gone up in Yadkinville and business owners also spoke out at Monday’s board of commissioners meeting in response to a proposed NCDOT project to put medians and roundabouts on U.S. 601.
The project, known as a “super street” has been discussed several times with both the Yadkinville Town Board and Yadkin County Commissioners as part of NCDOT’s comprehensive transportation plan. The goal is to increase safety along the stretch of road from Lee Street to the Hwy 421 interchange which has more than double the crash rate to similar roads in the state, according to NCDOT. Medians and several roundabouts are proposed in order to eliminate left turns across oncoming lanes of traffic, a common cause of crashes on the street.
Business owners expressed concerns, saying that it will hinder access to their restaurants and stores and therefore drive down business.
Marty Koon, of Venture Properties which owns the Food Lion store on U.S. 601, asked that the board take action to ask NCDOT to stop or change the proposed plan to update the roadway.
He said from his 30 years of experience in retail business locating, that access is a “huge issue.”
“Right in, right out, which is essentially what everyone will have if this project takes place, is the kiss of death,” Koon said. “It will end, it already has ended, any retail development or any interest any retailers will have in your one and only retail corridor.”
Koon said that “any sophisticated retailer” looking to expand to a given market would first make a call to DOT to find out if there are any plans on the docket to change the roadway in that area. Koon said the proposed roundabouts and median, even though the proposed project has yet to even begin, would deter retailers from wanting to be in that location.
“Existing retailers, over time as their sales are impacted, they will either seek to relocate or vacate the market,” he added.
Christine Poppe, owner of the Yadkinville McDonalds, said they have been a longtime supporter of the community as a business owner in the area. She, however, said she was not in support of the proposed “super street.”
She said when a median was added to Robinhood Road in Winston-Salem in front of the McDonalds there, that it resulted in a 30 percent loss of business and she worried that it would cause the same issue for her should the street be changed. Having to let go staff members due to a drop in a business was one of the main concerns she had.
“I would ask the board to consider other options. I’m all about making the road safe, however I think there are other ways to do this and not impact businesses so much,” Poppe said. She has already obtained 86 signatures on a petition to stop the proposed changes. She added that she had spoken to many of her customers as well as other business owners on the street and they were against the proposal.
Bojangles franchise owner Michael White also shared concerns about the “super street” proposal.
“Anything that you do that contributes to the detriment of the flow of traffic in this area will not benefit the citizens of Yadkinville,” he said.
During the commissioner comment portion of the meeting, Chairman Kevin Austin thanked the business owners for sharing their thoughts. He said he encouraged them to continue to reach out and get the public involved, as well as town leaders in Yadkinville.
“It really does need to be publicly driven. We love to hear from business leaders, but we also love to hear from the public. Your petition, I think, is very powerful. We have the responsibility to serve the public, as does every elected official,” Austin said.
White, Poppe, Koon, as well as several other business and property owners also spoke out at the Yadkinville town meeting on Monday evening.
Mayor Eddie Norman noted that the decision was ultimately up to NCDOT. He said Yadkinville board members, as well as county leaders, met with NCDOT last month during a public hearing and did not oppose the project. He noted his surprise that the business owners did not take the opportunity to speak directly with NCDOT at the hearing held for that purpose on March 1.
Koon said that he did attend the public meeting held by NCDOT and spoke with Division 11 Project Manager Dean Ledbetter but “did not get very far.”
“My recourse is to appeal to you,” he told the town board. He told the board, as he did to the county board, that the project would deter new retailers from wanting to locate on the street.
“There’s a chance you might get a Fred’s, there’s a chance you might get a Big Lots, and I’m not trying to disparage those retailers. You will not get any quality retailers, as most of us would define them, with a right in, right out access,” Koon said.
Norman told the business owners that they would consider the comments, but they were not prepared at the time to respond.
“I think the board needs some time to digest what we’ve heard and then we’ll get back together as a board and give our take on it,” Norman said.
“If I say anything, that’s a dangerous highway through there and we’re trying our best to make it safe,” he added.
Ledbetter was in attendance for the meeting and answered several questions from the board about other potential options for the road redesign.
Ledbetter reiterated that the crash rate was more than double the statewide rate for that type of road and that was what prompted the state to want to make significant changes to improve safety.
“When we get that much above the statewide average, what that tells us is there’s something about that roadway, it’s not just a coincidence. When you get above a certain place statistically, there’s a problem with the roadway. One of the things that could be looked at is continuing that turn lane and making it a five lane, however that doesn’t stop the primary types of crashes out there which are the angle crashes and left turn crashes,” Ledbetter said. “We have had numerous requests over the years to signalize the intersection at Beroth Road, but if you look at the exsiting cues at the traffic signals at Pine Street and the northbound ramps, you already have traffic backed up through Beroth Road. To signalize Beroth Road, if the roadway is full you’ll get to a green light and still have nowhere to go. The only way to fix Beroth Road, really, is to block off that left turn access and Beroth Road is certainly where a large number of the crashes in this corridor are.”
The proposed project is slated for bid in 2021. David Uchiyama, communications officer for NCDOT, said that they are currently in the process of reviewing all of the comments that were received during the comment period, which ended March 31. Those comments will be categorized and all comments will recieve a response, Uchiyama said.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.