State and town officials expect the new traffic signal at the new intersection of South Main Street, Ralph Stephens Road and Piney Grove-Wilbon Road to be operational the week of Oct. 16 if there are no unforeseen delays.
While some may think this is not soon enough for the accident-prone intersection, officials agree that the light is being installed in record time. The installation of a traffic signal from approval to design to funding to installation and wiring usually takes six to nine months. This light will be operational within two.
The town and the North Carolina Department of Transportation fast-tracked the light, slashing months off the usual time required by starting with wooden poles instead of custom-designed metal ones. Additionally, town staff coordinated requests, reviews and reports so that there was no waiting time between tasks.
Town of Holly Springs Director of Engineering Kendra Parrish reported to Town Council that tasks completed since NCDOT approved the signal in August included:
- expedited design and signal timing plan of the signal was completed;
- the plan was submitted to NCDOT, and NCDOT reviewed and approved the signal on an expedited schedule; meanwhile,
- the plans were submitted to the contractor for them to be added to the road project;
- NCDOT and the town reviewed the submitted contract change order and approved the work;
- Watson Electric, the subcontractor for signals, started installing the poles Monday.
She added that, in the next two weeks, this is the expected schedule:
- pole installation will be completed;
- the control cabinet will be set and wired;
- the meter base will be installed and inspected by NCDOT;
- span wire and the signal head will be installed;
- power line voltage will be extended to the cabinet (Duke is reporting 7-10 days for this;)
- once the meter is placed, wired and inspected, the signal must be on flash for 4-5 days;
- the signal should be functional, then, by the week of Oct. 16.
The extension of South Main Street to a realigned Piney Grove-Wilbon Road opened in early August, providing a new route through southwestern Holly Springs and alleviating traffic congestion on Avent Ferry Road. However, several accidents have occurred at the new intersection. Police said some drivers have failed to stop for stop signs on Ralph Stephens Road despite numerous warning devices.
Town officials received approval of the traffic light the day after submitting traffic count and accident data required to meet state criteria for a traffic light. To save time further, the town submitted engineering plans while DOT reviewed the town’s request for a traffic light.
Town Manager Chuck Simmons said he was pleased with DOT’s approval of the light and thanked state transportation officials for helping to expedite installation.
"Safety is our overriding concern," he said.
NCDOT Division Engineer Joey Hopkins agreed.
"We are glad the department and the town could work quickly together to come up with a solution to improve the safety for drivers and their passengers at that intersection," he said.
Several accidents have been reported at the intersection. Accidents occurred even after the addition of message boards, flags, rumble strips, additional stop signs, and other measures to attract drivers' attention.
Holly Springs Police Chief John Herring said driver inattention was a major factor in a number of the accidents that have occurred in the new intersection. He said it comes down to basic driver education training we all took in high school: approaching any intersection, cover your brake; stop if directed and proceed when it is safe. If not directed to stop, be prepared to stop anyway and proceed through the intersection when you are sure the way is clear.
During planning and design for Main Street extension, the town asked for a traffic light for the intersection of Main Street, Piney Grove-Wilbon Road, and Ralph Stephens Road.
Traffic forecasts completed during design did not show that the roadway met state criteria for a traffic light. Therefore, the town and DOT agreed to a new analysis after opening using actual traffic counts. In response to accidents, the town moved immediately on the new analysis.
The town built the Main Street extension and intersection in partnership with NCDOT. The roadway will be part of the state's transportation system. That is why DOT has final say over road design and the traffic control plan. DOT provided most of the funding for the roadway through federal grants.