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Wednesday, 02 January 2008 00:00

An engineer’s take on N.C. 107

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Walter Kulash, a private traffic engineer, has been advising the Jackson County Smart Roads Alliance on and off for four years on issues pertaining to the Southern Loop. Kulash specializes in “livable traffic” design and has worked as a consultant on projects all over the country. Kulash will be speaking at a presentation on Jan. 10 hosted by Smart Roads. We asked him for his take whether there’s a fix for N.C. 107 that doesn’t involve the Southern Loop.

 

What is the problem with N.C. 107 in your eyes?

“If someone wants to go to the grocery store or the home improvement store for a small quick purchase, they get shunted out to this five-lane road where they have to sit through this long signal. We need to keep 107 from being a blighted strip that bundles all the traffic on to the main artery.”

Smart Roads fears any study conducted by the DOT will be biased since DOT leaders have made it clear they favor the Southern Loop.

“A lot of the problem is not so much bias in the technical analysis. Bias suggests they are cooking the results. I would say that is not what is being done. Rather than say it is bias, the alternatives are just not being looked at seriously. They are not even putting it on the table.”

What are those alternatives that you think the DOT is overlooking?

“We need to look at turning existing links into useable routes for commuters. There is nothing that say those connections have to be a 70 mph freeway. Give a lot of local people a variety of ways to get to their local destinations rather than bundling them all together on 107 where they are competing with each other and the commuter traffic. You are asking a major street to do a job it is not well suited for, like providing access to individual driveways. You almost always need a supporting network of roads to do that kind of job.”

You’ve done traffic analysis, design and engineering all over the country. What is the price range for hiring a consultant like yourself to do an independent design analysis?

“Anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000.”

Who typically hires you to do conduct traffic designs?

“More often than the advocacy groups it is the local governments. The local government says to DOT, ‘We simply don’t believe you. We are going to spend our own money to get another opinion on this.’”

Have you ever been successful in getting the DOT to adopt your plan?

“It is every bit as dismissive as ever in most DOT’s. We hear things like ‘we wish it would work,’ or ‘we are sorry to say ...’. But some are paying attention. When local governments and private entities are spending their own money to challenge a DOT plan, not just complain but start spending their own money on the effort, then that is a serious customer dissatisfaction problem.”

The DOT has measured the wait time at the intersection of N.C. 107 and U.S. 23 — the busiest intersection of N.C 107 flanked by Bogart’s and Rite-Aid — at 52 seconds during peak rush hour. Do you think that is congested?

“Heavens no. Very few people would be waiting through a second cycle in the traffic signal at 52 seconds. People may freak out, but one of the things about traffic is people have to grow up and get use to the fact that North Carolina is not a rural environment anymore. It is the fastest growing state in the country.”

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