We drive by and around them every day, no matter where we are in town it seems. Roadway medians! They’re barriers of all shapes and designs, some nicely landscaped, others concrete monstrosities. They’re not new, but they’ve been popping up everywhere. A new grassy center median stretches along Bragg Boulevard from the Martin Luther King Freeway to Ames Street, and that’s just the beginning. It will eventually extend from Glenville Avenue to Stamper Road. That work is underway now. DOT is finishing up another center median along Rowan Street between Ray Avenue and Green Street. Both medians are linked to the Rowan Street Bridge replacement project, which is about to begin, said DOT District Construction Engineer Randy Wise. “The cost of the project is $1,135,816.28,” he added. Once the concrete islands are in along Bragg Boulevard, the section from Barrington Cross to the Martin Luther King Freeway bridge will be resurfaced.
Officials concede that this kind of construction can be disruptive for businesses. “Fast food places and convenience stores tend to suffer greater business losses than other retail outlets,” said DOT Regional Traffic Engineer David Phipps. “We’re in the convenience business and it makes us inconvenient,” said Louis Cox, president of Holt Oil Company, which owns the Liberty gas station on Rowan Street. “I’ve had to cut staff hours because of at least a 25 percent loss of gasoline sales,” he added. A Hardees Restaurant in an accident-prone area of Ramsey Street fell victim, in part, to a big median project. “We closed that particular Hardees about two years ago because of disappointing sales and it being in an older area that had diminished somewhat,” said Rick Rountree spokesman for Boddie-Noell Enterprises. “In general, our company has found road medians rarely make for better business. Overall, there probably wasn’t one single reason behind our decision but instead a combination of all three,” Rountree added.
“We understand during the construction and immediately following completion there are impacts to business,” reiterated Peggy Beach, spokesman for the Department of Transportation.
“Once people get used to it, things get back to normal,” said John Kanos who owns the Rainbow Restaurant on Ramsey Street. At least that was his experience. Several years ago, Ramsey Street from Tokay and Country Club Drives to the Outer Loop overpass lost its center turn lane to a massive, miles-long median. Peter Pappas, who owns the Baldino’s Giant Jersey Subs shop near the busy intersection of Ramsey and Tokay agrees. “We were down up to 30 percent during and immediately after construction, but the traffic accidents pretty much came to a stop afterwards.” DOT says that’s why the median was installed.
The state spent $3.4 million to “construct concrete islands, elevated medians, directional crossovers and other channelization to reduce the amount of uncontrolled cross movements,” along Ramsey Street according to the project description provided by DOT. The result was impressive. The state conducted two three-year analyses of traffic crashes along the corridor, one of them before construction began; the other from July 2012 through September 2015. The 53-page report emphasizes what are classified by DOT as Target Crashes; those which included angle, left turn, sideswipe and rear-end mishaps when there was a center turn lane and those that occurred after median construction. The analysis took into account vehicles that disregarded the median and were involved in U-turn crashes at designated median openings. Each crash was independently verified. One hundred eighty-one Target Crashes occurred during the three-year period before the median was built. Only 18 took place thereafter for a 90 percent reduction. Overall, auto accidents were reduced by 31 percent. The study disclosed that dozens of accidents between Tokay Drive and Andover Road were reduced to only two because of the presence of the median.
City Councilwoman Kathy Jensen, who represents the area and has a business on Ramsey said she “loves the medians. They have made getting in and out of traffic from businesses and neighborhoods easier and safer.”
“Typically, the medians are designed to be mountable by emergency vehicles,” said Fayetteville Traffic Engineer Lee Jernigan. He notes the center turn lane was often used by emergency vehicles to negotiate busy traffic, “Overall, though, the theory is that the medians will reduce accidents, which in turn reduces the occurrences necessary for a response by emergency vehicles.”
“We have not seen any impact that affected our response times and service deliveries negatively, but we have adjusted our routes accordingly,” commented Fire Chief Ben Major.
Safety medians were recently built along N. Eastern Boulevard and Grove Street. DOT says they were urgently-needed safety installations to reduce accidents involving pedestrians and to discourage jay walking. Well-marked crosswalks and improved signage accompanied the road work. The latest large project is along Owen Drive west of Cumberland Road, with improvements being made past Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Like Ramsey Street, restricted, directional crossovers prevent multi-car accidents. The Owen Drive median project is coupled with a federally-funded sidewalk construction program. “It’s a classic example of improving traffic safety with its 60,000 cars a day,” said Phipps.
Nearly two miles of sidewalks will be built from S. Eastern Boulevard (US 301) to the All-American Expressway at Old Owen Drive. The $549,000 project won’t get underway until the summer of next year, according to DOT, but it has been funded. Eighty percent of the money is provided by the federal government. The city will pay the other 20 percent or $112,000. “This will be a great project to improve pedestrian connectivity along one of the highest traveled corridors in the city,” said Jernigan. Construction is estimated to take from six to eight months.
DOT plans call for a median resembling the Ramsey Street project on Raeford Road to stretch from Robeson Street in the Highland Village area all the way to 71st High School. Land acquisition begins next year with construction scheduled for 2018, said Burns. It’s been a part of the local Transportation Improvement Plan for several years and was recommended by the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.