ROCKINGHAM — City leaders are taking steps to protect the small brick wall at Harrington Square after it was struck by tractor-trailers twice within the past six months.
John Massey, assistant city manager and city planner, said Thursday that three steel bollards will be installed on the right corner of the intersection between East Washington Street and North Lee Street to prevent further damage.
William Hopper, of Charlotte, driving for JB Hunt Transport, was attempting to turn left at the square last Friday when the trailer went onto the curb and struck the brick wall, according to a police report. Damage was estimated at $2,000.
The damage from an August collision had just recently been repaired. In that incident, a truck not only caused damage to the wall, but also clipped a street lamp on the opposite corner.
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly said earlier this week that records show the wall has been struck three times since January 2015.
Mayor Steve Morris said this has been a problem for many years, though this is the most substantive action to address the problem to date.
“(I)t makes better sense than letting people keep running into it,” he said.
The bollards — which will cost $1,500 and be installed within the next two months — will signal to truck drivers that they need to use more caution when making that particular turn, according to Massey.
Harrington Square isn’t the only spot along East Washington Street where large trucks have caused problems.
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.
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,” Massey told the Daily Journal in August, 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 in August 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.