According to the Department of Transportation Division Traffic Engineer’s office, requests for funding have been sent to the Board of Transportation for discussion at an upcoming meeting.
Daniel Adams, Deputy Division Traffic Engineer, speaking for Division Traffic Engineer Dean Ledbetter, said the requests for approximately $15,000 each had been submitted for turn signals at the intersections of US 221 and NC 163, and at the intersection of US 221 Business and Beaver Creek School Road. The turn signals would assist motorists turning left onto US 221 Business heading north into West Jefferson, and those turning left onto Beaver Creek School Road from US 221 Business.
The signal lights would include a green left turn signal followed by a flashing yellow left turn signal that would replace the green “ball” informing motorists they could turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic.
Adams said the Board of Transportation meets monthly and discussion of requests for spot safety funds under which the turn signals would fall happens every three months. The next discussion is expected to take place in January, though he was not sure if the West Jefferson requests would be included at that meeting.
A letter from Ledbetter to West Jefferson resident Pam Bard outlined the reasoning for the turn signals. Bard had put in a request to the DOT for a turn signal onto Beaver Creek School Road.
“Our office has completed its investigation of your request for a left-turn phase at the intersection of US 221 Business (Jefferson Avenue) and SR 1248 (Beaver Creek School Road) in Ashe County,” Ledbetter states in the letter. “We understand that you are concerned about the backup of traffic during the noon and evening peak hours and about the safety for drivers turning left onto Beaver Creek School Road.”
Ledbetter said in the letter that the benefits of adding signal phases at any location must outweigh the disadvantages. He quoted disadvantages as increased delay in traffic and reduced freedom of motorists to control their own progress. In the investigation of the need for a left turn signal, he said the volume of left-turn traffic is compared to the volume of through traffic and right-turn traffic, and in this situation it was determined that the turn signal is warranted due to traffic volume. He also noted the number of accidents occurring at this intersection over the past five years saying that six of them might have been prevented by the existence of a left turn signal.
“For these reasons, we do recommend the installation of a left-turn phase for northbound US 221 Business (Jefferson Avenue),” Ledbetter stated.
Adams added the recommendation of a left-turn phase at the other intersection based on the same reasoning.
The letter noted that as soon as funding is secured and plans are developed, the project will be scheduled.
Pam Bard, who lives at Mountain Aire Golf Course and knows firsthand the difficulties of driving in that area of town, said she was thrilled with the response to her request. “I thought it was fantastic,” she said. “It’s nice to see our tax dollars in use for something to help our community. There was another accident there a couple weeks ago, so that makes seven that might have been prevented with a turn signal.”
Bard said she was very pleased with DOT’s prompt response and investigation. “The key to life is persistence,” she said, about her contacting DOT with her concerns. “They follow up on all requests from citizens, and that is great to know.”