Apex eyes changes to improve NC 55 traffic safety

Posted March 24, 2011 7:04 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2011 7:23 p.m. EDT

— The Town Council is considering a proposal to limit some turns off N.C. Highway 55 to improve traffic flow and safety on the busy Apex thoroughfare.

Brad Whitman, who runs an oil-change shop near the N.C. 55 interchange with U.S. Highway 1, said wrecks are a common sight near his business.

"People don't pay attention out here," Whitman said. "I've almost gotten into an accident just coming to work."

Last year, Apex police responded to 66 accidents at the interchange, 21 accidents at the intersection of Lufkin Road and N.C. 55 just south of U.S. 1 and another 18 at N.C. 55 and Marco Drive, which is on the north side of the interchange.

Over the past seven years, only the N.C. 55 interchange at U.S. Highway 64 has seen more wrecks, according to Apex police.

"There are a lot of cars that go from the other side of Apex to the (Research Triangle Park) area, so we have a heavy flow of traffic that comes through those interchanges (on N.C. 55)," said Capt. Ann Stephens of the Apex Police Department.

Stephens said improving N.C. 55 traffic flow around U.S. 1 isn't an easy fix.

"Part of the issue for us is that those are (state) maintained roads, so we have limited ability of what we can do," she said.

The state Department of Transportation said it has no plans for changes along that section of N.C. 55.

So, Apex officials are focusing on controlling traffic on nearby side streets. The Town Council is expected to consider at its April 5 meeting a proposal from police to prohibit left turns from Marco Drive onto N.C. 55 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Drivers have to cross two northbound lanes and a turn lane to make that left turn.

Although he's concerned about traffic, Whitman said that idea worries him because it could affect his business.

"If nobody can make a left turn out of here, nobody's going to stop here," he said.

Apex police also have asked DOT for signs to warn drivers about the complex traffic pattern on the north side of the U.S. 1 interchange.