ROCKINGHAM — With a loud “BOOM,” a tractor-trailer driver on Friday clipped the corner brickwork at Harrington Square and light pole across the street.
Employees of PNC Bank and BB&T stepped out of their respective buildings to see the cause — and the damage.
The driver pulled over just past PNC and waited for police.
The Rockingham Police Department does not release wreck reports until the following business day.
City maintenance workers cleaned up the brick debris from the road and placed orange cones around the damage. A crew from Duke Energy came out a few hours later and wrapped orange tape around the still-leaning pole.
This isn’t the first time the square has suffered damage from large trucks trying to make the turn. There have also been several other incidents with trucks navigating the downtown streets.
Last December, a tractor-trailer from Ontario, Canada-based Team Logistics Systems, Inc. collided with a van from A&M Contractors, Inc. while making a turn onto Hancock Street from East Washington Street — the route for U.S. 1.
Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump said at the time that there have been talks to keep trucks out of the downtown area since before he came on board in 1982.
In July of 2015, the city council adopted a resolution requesting the N.C. Department of Transportation to create a truck route from Fayetteville Road onto Greene Street to U.S. 220.
The current route — following East Washington, South Hancock and East Franklin streets — features one-way roads and 90-degree turns “which pose significant navigational challenges for tractor-trailers,” according to the resolution.
Because of those challenging turns, officials say big rigs have caused damage to both public and private property, including sidewalks, trees, lampposts, parked cars and buildings.
“Tractor trailers causing damage downtown is an all too frequent occurrence,” John Massey, city planner, said in an email on Friday, adding that the city has not kept track of how many incidents there have been or the cost of such damage. “The damages are not always city facilities — sometimes it NCDOT signs or equipment or Duke Energy utility poles.”
Andrew Barksdale, a spokesman for the DOT, said Friday that the re-route was included in the 2018-2017 State Transportation Improvement Program.
“This project was accelerated by two years because we recognized the need to reroute the big rigs out of downtown,” he said. “It had been set for construction in 2024. Now, construction will begin in 2022.”
Barksdale said the $6.5 million project includes widening East Greene Street to three lanes to allow for the tractor-trailers to go between U.S. 1 to U.S. 220 via E. Greene Street to avoid downtown.
In the meantime, however, there isn’t much that can be done to keep them away.
“We’re not aware of any options,” Massey said. “None have come up in our discussions with NCDOT.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.