Local News

Deadly Raleigh Wreck Leaves Traffic Questions

Posted May 19, 1998

— One accident on the Raleigh Beltline can paralyze traffic for hours. A deadly accident on Tuesday raises several traffic questions: What was the extent of Tuesday's crash?

47-year-old Linda Blackwell of Apex died Tuesday when a car crossed over the median and hit two cars going in the other direction.

The wreck created a traffic jam for four hours in the middle of the afternoon rush. People moved at a snail's pace along the Beltline in southwest Wake County. Unsuspecting motorist continued to pull onto the 440 loop without previous warning of the crash or other alternate routes. How prepared are state and local agencies to get traffic moving again after a major wreck?

Television and radio alerts helped some drivers steer clear of the mess. However, some question if a few hours into this tie-up, signs could have been posted on the roads to prevent drivers from taking an exit ramp right into the gridlock.

Local police departments and the Department of Transportation said that they have a plan to re-route traffic. However, most accidents do not last long enough to justify putting up signs to redirect people.

"There may have been some lag time and delays, and those are unfortunate things," Raleigh Police Sgt. Mike Reynolds said. "We try to do it as safely as possible for the motoring public, as well as, to protect the officers and to protect the investigation." How can people find out about alternate routes?

The DOT said that by the end of June, people driving on the Beltline will have a better idea of alternate routes.

"There will be trail blazing signs that will carry them through a series of city streets or state maintained streets back to the closest interchange so they can avoid a problem such as [Tuesday]," NC DOT Engineer David Allsbrook said. Should all North Carolina interstate highways have median barriers?

North Carolina has a thousand miles of interstate highway in North Carolina; however, there is not a median barrier on 85 percent of the roads.

Without median barriers in the middle of highways, it is an invitation for across the median accidents.

A DOT study from 1988-1991 reported 105 people killed in across the median accidents on North Carolina interstates. Since then the state has put barriers on 24 sections of highway, and more are on the way.

A new report scheduled for release next month will pinpoint additional stretches in need of barriers, including the site of Tuesday's fatal wreck.

"Its one of the ones on the list," NC DOT Engineer Jimmy Lynch said. "And its one of the ones that we will be recommending to our upper officials in the Dot, and eventually to Board of Transportation." What kind of barriers are available and where should they go?

The state uses three kinds of barriers on its interstates; concrete, cable, and steel beam.

The major factors in determining where the barriers go are the accident history of a particular piece of interstate, the width of the medians separating the two directions of traffic, and the volume of traffic on the road.

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