Hamilton Drive residents implore leaders for reduced speed limit

By Chris Berendt

May 6, 2014

A group of residents lobbied county leaders for a reduced speed limit on their neighborhood street, raising concerns of a limit that was already too high being regularly exceeded, putting people at risk on a daily basis.

At the top of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night, Jeffrey Weeks of 115 Hamilton Drive, addressed the board following the Department of Transportation’s roads report.

“The speed limit on our road is 35 mph. It’s a dead-end road and barely two cars can get down it. We have children on the road playing all the time and we have two or three (vehicles) that fly up and down the road at more than 35 mph,” Weeks commented.

Several years ago, Weeks said he called DOT personnel and tried to get something done but was unsuccessful.

“I was directed to start here,” Weeks said at Monday’s meeting. “It needs to be put down to at least 15 mph. If it doesn’t, some kids are going to get hurt or killed. My grandchildren live on the road now along with other residents that are here with me now.”

He pointed to a handful of Hamilton Road residents in the audience. In addition to DOT, Weeks said members of the neighborhood had talked with N.C. Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s Office authorities in an effort to try to catch the violators.

“It is just getting nowhere,” Weeks remarked. “I’m afraid that someone is going to wind up getting killed before it’s all over with.”

Hamilton Drive, located just across from the first County Complex entrance off Rowan Road from U.S. 701 Business, is a state-maintained road. DOT maintenance engineer Keith Eason, in attendance at the meeting to give the monthly roads report, said he would take the concerns up the chain of command.

“I don’t make that decision,” Eason replied to Weeks. “What I will do is direct this information to our division traffic engineer in Wilmington and inform them of what is going on and allow them to either make a recommendation on a speed limit change or comment to you in the form of a letter. That’s really my recourse right now.”

Eason said there was not a time frame for that response, but he would relay the request and concerns to the proper state personnel.

“I hope to at least get you some information, whether it be yes or no, but I can’t promise you when,” Eason noted.

Commissioner Billy Lockamy asked that any state response be reported back to the county manager for further consideration by the board.

Similar speed limit concerns were voiced to City of Clinton officials earlier this year regarding state-maintained Pugh Road, and last month, the City Council adopted a resolution seeking a reduced limit from 55 to 35 mph on the road, frequently used as a cut-through between N.C. 403 and U.S. 701 Business.

That came on the heels of a speed study conducted by the Clinton Police Department and recommendations by Police Chief Jay Tilley and city manager Shawn Purvis to adopt the resolution, which the Council did unanimously. A copy of that resolution was forwarded to DOT, which has the authority to reduce the speed limit on Pugh Road as it is a state-maintained road.

On Monday, Hamilton Road residents asked for the same state consideration.

The road, by residents’ estimations, is about two-tenths of a mile long to its dead end.

Larry Anderson, of 59 Hamilton Drive, urged commissioners to take the concerns to heart.

“I hope this matter is not taken lightly, because I would hate to see someone’s child get killed in order to get something done,” Anderson said. “I guarantee you a Highway Patrol (trooper) could back up in my yard and get up under the shelter of my house and make his quota in two days.”

Anderson said he flagged down a woman recently who he saw driving well in excess of the street’s posted speed limit.

“If she wasn’t running 65 mph when she got to my driveway she wasn’t running 2 mph,” he said. “Now that’s terrible. You can instill in a small child to look both ways before you go in the road all you want to, but if a basketball or a baseball gets away from him, he’s going to run out there. I really want this matter taken care of.”

Commissioner Albert Kirby said he recalled going around Hamilton Drive as a youngster and seemed to remember the speed limit on Hamilton being 15 or 20 mph back then. Residents said it was.

Anderson pointed out that the speed limit sign on the street was actually plowed down some time ago by a motorist who had dropped his phone while driving and attempted to fish it out from the floorboard. In addition to running over the mailbox when he ran off the road, he damaged a resident’s yard.

That could easily have been a person, Anderson told commissioners.

“I tried to get something down about it then,” he remarked. “I just don’t see this speed limit being 35 mph. If you pull in there, there is no way two cars can even pass by each other. All it is going to take is a small child, or any of us, walking to their mailbox. You know how it is nowadays — everybody’s on their cell phone or playing on the radio dial — someone is going to get hit.

“This needs to be taken seriously,” he said.

Board chairman Jefferson Strickland asked that Eason keep the board abreast of any developments or state response to the matter.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.