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Fire Tower plan eliminates left turns at Charles and Arlington

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Home and business owners gather together during a public meeting to review the upcoming changes to Portertown and Firetower Roads at the Alice Keene Center Monday, July 31, 2017.


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Eliminating left turns at Fire Tower Road’s intersections with Charles and Arlington boulevards by relocating them to other streets would reduce congestion and speed up traffic flow, transportation officials said Monday at a workshop on major changes planned to Fire Tower and Portertown Roads.

Video illustrating traffic flow expected from the proposed changes was among information presented during the three-hour session at the Community Schools and Recreation building at Alice F. Keene Park. More than 200 people viewed the video and updated designs for the project, which will widen Fire Tower and Portertown between Charles and East 10th Street.

While the redesign of the Charles and Arlington intersections are not officially part of the widening project, engineers presented the information to judge public interest in the proposal. North Carolina Department of Transportation officials are scheduled to make an informational presentation to the Greenville City Council later this month.

The plan would eliminate all left-hand turns at the two intersections. Traffic at Arlington would be directed to a new road that would run between Basil’s Restaurant on Fire Tower and Arlington’s intersection with Turnbury Lane. At Charles Boulevard, traffic would go to a reconfigured road that runs between Bells Fork Road’s intersection with Charles and Fire Tower’s intersection with Kittrell Road.

Currently, a vehicle attempting to make a left turn at either intersection has an average wait time of 82 seconds, said Steve Hamilton, division traffic engineer. Even if additional left turn lanes are added at each intersection, it’s estimated by 2029 a vehicle could wait about five minutes to make a left turn, he said.

Only allowing through-traffic and right turns at each intersection reduces the number of signal phases needed to move traffic, which reduces wait time, Hamilton said. There also will be shorter wait times at the intersections dedicated to left turns because they too will require fewer phases.

“It is changing their route but the travel time will be shorter,” Hamilton said.

Wendy Bissinger said she’s glad transportation officials are looking for ways to improve left turns. She thinks the proposal is better than adding more turn lanes which makes intersections wider.

Medians also will be built along Fire Tower between two boulevards to reduce the number of left turns out of parking lots.

Ashley Williams said he wanted to learn more about the proposal for reducing left turns but thought the proposal had merit.

“The only traffic accident I have been in in my life was someone making a left across two lanes and I smashed into them,” he said.

Williams, a Cherry Oaks North resident, said overall he likes the plans for widening Fire Tower and Portertown roads. He said he was pleased to learn bicycle lanes were being included in the project and hoped the city and county would agree to funding sidewalks.

“If I can take my kids and hop on the bikes to the movie theater (on Fire Tower), that’s awesome,” Williams said.

Many people attending Monday’s meeting wanted a closer look at the maps and more information on how the proposal would affect their homes and property.

Stuart Elks, who co-owns Highland Park Mobile Home Park with his family, verified his father’s home and four other properties that front Portertown Road would be lost to the project.

“I understand the road needs to be widened. It’s unfortunate that the house my father has lived in 60 years has to be taken but I understand progress has to be made,” Elks said.

He’s also frustrated because the other four houses are rental units, and while the family will receive compensation for the structures and land, they won’t receive compensation for the lost income. He also worries about the disruption the construction will cause people living in the 90-unit mobile home park.

C.P. Shaw of Cherry Oaks asked transportation officials to work with law enforcement to control traffic that will likely cut through his neighborhood to avoid construction on Fire Tower.

Shaw said when NCDOT built the roundabout at Fire Tower and Portertown, speeding cars routinely drove through the neighborhood.

Shaw’s son, Martin, lives in Cherry Oaks along Fire Tower. The maps show the state claiming part of his front yard for an easement and he wanted more information. Martin Shaw also wanted to see the project’s cross-section and grade change maps to determine if his property would be below grade and put his property at risk for drainage concerns, runoff and standing water in his yard. It also makes it more difficult to see out of or turn into a driveway, he said, but was told the maps aren’t available.

Matthew Thompson and Jerry English, who co-own a house in the 1800 block of Portertown Road with Shawn Grazier, also were seeking information about easements. Their house, which they purchased in April 2016, isn’t on the relocation list but the map indicates they’ll lose more than 25 feet of their front yard and the construction easement appears to go up to their front door.

The widening project wasn’t disclosed when they purchased the home, English said. Such a disclosure is required.

“This is probably unlike any other property owner,” Thompson said. “We flat out asked. The road was widened five, 10 years ago, we asked if there was any chance of it being widened in the future and they flat out said no.”

The men are now gathering information to find out what legal action is available to them.

Jay Little has lived on Eleanor Street for 24 years and he was disappointed to see the design only allows right turns only onto Fire Tower.

“I agree we have to do something, but it’s going to affect a lot of people,” he said. “It’s going to make it difficult to get to work in the morning.”

The plans are available for review at https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/FireTowerPortertownWidening/.

Public comments will be accepted until Sept. 1.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.