New plan aims for safe walking in key areas of Currituck

By on October 8, 2017

The Connect Currituck plan includes sidewalks and greenways to keep pedestrians safe alongside its roadways.

A Virginia woman walking along a road in lower Currituck County was struck and killed recently by a vehicle driven by a man who was allegedly intoxicated.

Charles Baum, 22, of Jarvisburg, has been charged with driving while impaired and felony death by motor vehicle as a result of the accident, which killed Lindsey Anne Parsons, 29, of Chesapeake.

She was walking along South Spot Road in Powell’s Point at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, when she was hit by Baum’s car.

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That stretch of road is a narrow two-lane with scant shoulders, one of scores of similar streets throughout Currituck County. Although the county has little control over people who may drive while impaired, county officials are working on a plan to make the county’s roads safer for pedestrians.

County commissioners reviewed the plan, known as “Connect Currituck,” during a joint meeting of the county’s Planning Department and Board of Commissioners recently.

The county began working on “Connect Currituck” in April. In June, it started soliciting comments from county residents through numerous community meetings and an online survey.

One question asked respondents what keeps them from walking to destinations within the county. The most frequent response was, “I don’t feel safe,” said Jennifer Baldwin, a senior planner with Alta Planning and Design, the Durham firm the county consulted with for the plan.

“Connect Currituck” aims to change that by improving pedestrian safety and accessibility countywide, for people of all ages and abilities, according to the county’s Connect Currituck website.

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For the Currituck mainland, the plan includes several large-scale improvements for intersections on Caratoke Highway, the mainland’s central thoroughfare. “There are no safe crossings on the mainland,” Baldwin said.

At the intersection of Shingle Landing Road and Caratoke Road (N.C. 168) in Moyock, a pedestrian crosswalk with countdown signals and wheelchair ramps is planned, along with long stretches of sidewalks along both sides of the highway.

Similar improvements to other large intersections in the county are included in the plan. A safer way to cross Caratoke Highway in Grandy is especially needed, Baldwin said.

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“There’s a big, tough intersection there,” she said. “It can be intimidating.”

While major crosswalks, sidewalks and walking trails will require significant funding from NCDOT and other sources, there are short-term priorities that involve lower costs, Baldwin said.

“We wanted to make sure we identified some of that low-hanging fruit,” she added.

Currituck County lacks sidewalks and pedestrian right-of-ways on most of the county’s major thoroughfares and secondary roads. A 29-year-old woman died recently after being struck by a car on South Spot Road. (Google Maps)

For example, lower speed limits and signs cautioning motorists to watch for pedestrians are simple ways to improve safety for walkers along roads similar to South Spot Road, where the county’s most recent pedestrian death occurred.

The “Connect Currituck” plan recommends that some of the county’s less-traveled side streets and two-lane roads be designated as “quiet streets,” which involves eliminating the center line and painting a white double line marking off a pedestrian right-away along one side of the road.

Some in the audience for the presentation appeared cool to that idea, and Baldwin said the design wasn’t common in the United States, although similar streets can be found throughout Asheville.

“There’s no shoulder,” Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon said, referring to a photo of an example of a “quiet street” during the meeting. “This is better than nothing.”

Another priority in the draft plan is the completion of the gaps in the Corolla Greenway and improve crossings along N.C. 12. in Currituck County. The plan includes creating a pair of one-way streets on Whalehead and Lighthouse drives, and converting one lane of traffic on each road to pedestrian and bike lanes.

Other recommendations include new sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, new side paths or trails along major corridors and changes to existing bridges to make them safer for walkers and cyclists.

Because Currituck covers such a large area and is predominently rural, it’s not feasible to create a countywide plan for sidewalks, crosswalks, and walking trails. Instead, pedestrian network recommendations were focused within four major pedestrian hubs: Moyock; Barco-Maple-Currituck; Grandy, and Corolla, along with two minor hubs that include Knotts Island and Caratoke Highway from Jarvisburg to Point Harbor.

The following six projects are listed as the draft plan’s top priorities:

  • Moyock: Improve the crossing infrastructure at the intersection of Caratoke Highway and Shingle Landing Road and Camellia Drive.
  • Barco: Install a high-visibility crosswalk at the intersection of Shortcut Road (U.S.158) and College Way for pedestrian access to the Currituck Community Park complex.
  • Grandy: Improve the crossing infrastructure at Walnut Island Boulevard and Poplar Branch Road, and add a side path along Caratoke Highway between the two intersections.
  • Grandy: Create a pedestrian lane along the shoulder of Walnut Island Boulevard to improve safety for existing pedestrian traffic.
  • Corolla: Complete critical gaps in the Corolla Greenway and improve crossings
    along N.C. 12.
  • Corolla: Create a pair of one-way roads on Whalehead and Lighthouse drives and
    convert one lane of traffic on each road to pedestrian and bike lanes.

The current draft of the plan may be viewed at Connect Currituck.

The county’s Planning Board will likely review the final draft in November, sending it to the Board of Commissioners for approval. Once commissioners sign off on it, it will be submitted to NCDOT.

The plan must be approved by the state Department of Transportation before becoming eligible for NCDOT funding, Baldwin said. Work on the plan will be incremental, with projects getting under way as funds become available.

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Comments

Resident1

October 13, 2017 8:26 pm

Not sure one way effective when every 100 feet there is a driveway access that will encroach a pedestrian lane- those driveways in season often 10-12 vehicles
And a lane vs protected path might lessen pedestrian alertness

And anyone have stats on pedestrian injuries or fatality that suggest need for this major change?

Salvo Jimmy

October 11, 2017 2:52 pm

This from NC traffic law sec 20-174

(d) Where sidewalks are provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the extreme left of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction. Such pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to approaching traffic.

dave

October 11, 2017 1:33 pm

Anyone else notice how people walk side by side and will not move out of the way for vehicles coming up from behind them? We move off the road and let the vehicle pass. People so entitled. Pedestrians may have the right of way, but as my old drivers ed instructor said: “do you want to be dead right?”

Bud

October 11, 2017 6:51 am

That area is too overpopulated to make safe.

William Paul Bailey

October 11, 2017 5:44 am

I’m not a fan of spending our taxes to build a sidewalk on the mainland. It’s a rural community with miles between attractions and shopping locations. We’re better to spend the limited money we have on schools and public safety in my opinion…

And

October 10, 2017 8:38 pm

And what happens when Lighthouse Drive floods?

Rethink Please

October 10, 2017 11:37 am

BOC seems to forget that the walkways took away access streets- hence no stop signs
One way will add to problem with frustrated visitors, cleaners, maintenance, pool etc. speeding along the “roomier” one way streets, and add congestion to Corolla Drive, which has become an alt. 12.

What Whalehead needs is speed enforcement, if there are not enough deputies invest in cameras and/or bumps (which can be graded to accommodate emergency vehicles. There should be enforcement of bicycle light requirements and perhaps rental companies could add small LED lights in their goody bags.

Corolla Resident

October 9, 2017 9:12 pm

As a Corolla resident, I am not very fond of the plan to impose the one-way sections on Whalehead and Lighthouse. Not sure where the perceived need came from, either, I am not aware of any incidents down there, and if there were it would be b/c of speed. It’s posted 25 mph, but it is just a “suggested” speed, as there is no enforcement. If we can’t get people to follow the law (speed limit) the way it is, why do we think we can get people to obey the one-way restrictions? Waste of money in my mind….

Salvo Jimmy

October 9, 2017 9:57 am

One thing many of these pedestrian tragedies, including as I recall the one cited, is that the person is walking with traffic rather than facing traffic.

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