ROCKINGHAM — Citing heavy traffic, one-way streets and an “awkward, accident-prone intersection,” city leaders are asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to re-route a part of U.S. 1.
The Rockingham City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday requesting the DOT re-designate the route of U.S. 1 to follow Greene Street and U.S. 220 instead of its current track through downtown.
The route — following East Washington, South Hancock and East Franklin streets — features one-lane 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.
“The City has not kept track of the estimated dollar amount of damages caused by tractor-trailer traffic over the years,” City Planner John Massey said in an email Tuesday afternoon before the meeting.
According to the resolution, the new route would be “viable” for both northbound and southbound traffic and only adding a quarter-mile to the commute.
The resolution also mentions a proposed bypass no longer being funded and reducing “traffic volumes through the awkward, accident-prone intersection” at U.S. 1 and U.S. 220 on the south side of town as reasons for the re-designation.
“I think this makes a lot of sense,” said Councilman Bennett Deane, making the motion to adopt the resolution.
Councilman John Hutchinson seconded, adding, “It’s better for the town, it’s better for the trucks.”
The city is also asking the DOT to “provide funding for any necessary road-related improvements” associated with the route switch.
However, because the state has not completed any design or feasibility studies, Massey said he did not want to speculate on what improvements may be needed.
With a decrease in vehicle traffic, the city expects pedestrian foot traffic to pick up, “which will in turn complement other ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown.”
In addition to fixing the traffic problem, the city is also looking to help downtown businesses pretty up their buildings.
Council members voted to create a Facade Improvement Grant Program, which would provide funding for improvements made to the exterior of buildings that are located within the designated district.
The funds would be available for a variety of improvements including brickwork, painting, relocating doors and windows, change of exterior lighting, installation of awnings and permanent signs, adding a patio or outdoor eating space or landscaping and fencing along the front right-of-way.
Property owners or tenants who are approved will receive a grant for half of the total cost, up to $5,000. To get the full amount, at least $10,000 would have to be invested in improvements.
Those who own more than one property will only be eligible for one grant per year and only one grant will be awarded per facade in any nine-month period.
As far as funding, a staff report included in the agenda mentions applying for grant funds from the Cole Foundation to be used as seed money to begin the program, then, if successful, the city council could appropriate funds annually.
Business owners interested in the program should contact Massey.
The council also:
• approved a demolition ordinance for a dilapidated home at 2209 Fayetteville Road;
• presented plaques to Anne M. Edwards, who stepped down from the Planning and Zoning Board after becoming a council member, and John Hutchinson, whose term on the Richmond County Public Library Board has expired;
• appointed Jimmy McDonald to the planning board;
• appointed Elaine Wilson to the library board; and
• set a public hearing for the council’s Aug. 11 meeting on an amendment to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to create a special sign overlay district for Richmond Plaza Shopping Center.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.