The state Department of Transportation needs to give more than a perfunctorily look at traffic issues in the Union school district.
While we know how difficult it is to persuade the higher-ups at DOT that traffic lights are needed anywhere in Sampson County without some type of lawmaker intervention, the hope, at least, is that this time around a true and accurate assessment will be made before thoughts of erecting a traffic or caution light, perhaps both, are tossed aside.
The traffic issue was brought to the attention of the Sampson County Board of Education during a meeting last week at Union High School, where advisory committee president Tammy Tew implored the board to take a closer look at what she called a very serious traffic problem.
Issues, she said, can be found at both Kader Merrit Road and River Road, both which intersect with U.S. 421 and both which are heavily traveled by both school buses leaving Union High and Union Middle, student drivers and parents who are picking up youngsters from the intermediate, elementary and middle schools.
It’s a highly congested area, particularly at peak times of the day when school is taking in and letting out each day, and Tew’s hope is that something can be done.
She and other Union advisory members have mentioned the possibility of a traffic light at Kader Merrit Road and perhaps a caution light at River Road, ideas that local DOT officials have said they will now assess, conducting traffic counts that will be forwarded up the line.
And that’s where the problems usually arise. For some reason, when traffic lights are mentioned in Sampson County, the first DOT response is usually a resounding n. That’s often followed closely behind by the “there’s not enough traffic to warrant it” assessment followed sometimes by the tired and pathetic excuse that there have not been enough accidents along that stretch of highway to justify a light.
We say do something before an accident happens, much the same plea that Union advisory committee members have been making.
Any time there is a high volume of student traffic mixed with any other kind of traffic, the dangers are there. Add to it an assortment of schools and a still pretty busy area like U.S. 421 and the problems only increase.
That’s why a traffic light was erected at the new Midway High School, at Hollerin’ Road and U.S. 421 north.
While we understand that those two roads are situated right beside the high school, unlike at Union, where the school is a good mile or better from Kader Merritt’s intersection with U.S. 421 south, there are similarities, and there are the same fears.
We know traffic lights costs money, and we know it’s important to be frugal with state spending, putting dollars where dollars are needed most. Yet we continue to point out that if neighboring Duplin can have a bank of stoplights along the N.C. 24 bypass near Kenansville where nothing but open fields flank it, then surely we are due some where traffic just might warrant more than an easy no.
We hope DOT will give this more than a casual glance. Student lives could be at risk and that certainly warrants whatever means necessary to ensure safety.