Nags Head wants NCDOT’s help on unsafe crosswalk
The Nags Head Board of Commissioners has asked the N.C. Department of Transportation for a pedestrian-activated light at the crosswalk on the “Little Bridge,” a span used by fishing enthusiasts to cast a line or crab from the concrete walkways along the Nags Head-Manteo Causeway.
Citing what they described as a defective crosswalk that NCDOT has failed to adequately address, the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution at their June 5 meeting requesting a traffic signal similar to the one on U.S. 158 that provides a pedestrian crossing between Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the shopping complex at milepost 12.5.
“This board has said it, and said it, and said it again,” said Mayor Ben Cahoon at the meeting.
“We don’t want one of those situations where someone has to die before something gets fixed.”
There have been two accidents involving a vehicle rear ending another one that stopped at the crosswalk on the bridge in recent weeks, according to Nags Head Police Chief Phil Webster. Webster told the Sentinel that since 2014, there have been 20 collisions at the bridge’s crosswalk.
Two pedestrians have been struck in the crosswalk – one in July 2018 and the other in August 2014 – however there have been no fatalities.
“A pedestrian crosswalk at that speed is an inherently unsafe situation,” Cahoon said in a later interview. The speed limit on the stretch of causeway is 55 miles per hour. “If a crosswalk is created, there is some expectation on the part of pedestrians that they can cross safely.”
The resolution passed by commissioners noted that the population in Nags Head swells from 2,800 to 40,000 during the summer months and that NCDOT’s installation of signs with flashing lights at the crosswalk last year “has caused confusion among drivers and pedestrians and may have made the situation worse.”
“Quite frankly, DOT needs a new system, because it just ain’t working,” Commissioner Renee Cahoon asserted during the meeting.
Chief Webster acknowledged that NCDOT has made an effort to make improvements at the crosswalk, but added that the problem persists: “We are very appreciative of the effort DOT has made, but it doesn’t seem to be effective at this point.”
Webster noted that the unintended consequence of the signage, coupled with the high speed limit, has been that drivers are unsure what to do when approaching the crosswalk. Making matters worse, he said, is the effect the morning sun can have on eastbound drivers.
NCDOT spokesperson Tim Hass told the Sentinel that the department received the request from Nags Head on June 12 and will begin gathering data, as well as studying the feasibility of the request. He said pedestrian and traffic counts will need to be conducted following Federal Highway Administration guidelines. Officials, he added, “will have to get an average over a period of time…to get a good picture of what traffic is like.”