By Jeanna Baxter White
The Town of Mocksville will be getting a new, improved crosswalk at the main intersection of Hwy 158 (Main Street) and Depot Street following the Board of Transportation’s funding approval of a pedestrian safety improvement plan presented by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on December 5th.
According to the DOT’s proposal, the new crosswalk will include flashing crossing lights, a pavement stamp with reflective markings to enhance the outline of the crosswalk for motorists, and curb extensions (bumpouts) to shorten the distance pedestrians must walk to cross the street. The mid-block crossings that currently exist will either be allowed to fade or blacked out when the main intersection improvements are completed by March of 2020.
Curb cuts will be filled in and planters will be placed strategically to discourage pedestrian crossings outside of the crosswalk. Parallel parking places at the front of each quad will also be removed to improve visibility at the crosswalk.
“The Board and I remain extremely committed to pedestrian safety downtown,” said Mocksville Mayor Will Marklin. “We have worked closely with NCDOT and our friends in the General Assembly to support the design, funding, and implementation of DOT’s proposed crosswalk improvements. We believe this is an important step in preventing future tragedies in our downtown.”
Town residents have expressed concern that nothing has changed following the tragic fatality in the crosswalk in front of Restaurant 101 in April.
Town Manager Matt Settlemyer would like to assure them that that is not the case. “Town officials met with DOT’s Division Engineer Pat Ivey within days of the accident requesting a plan to improve pedestrian safety downtown. Unfortunately, it took time for DOT to complete its review, create a new design, and get it into the funding cycle where we are competing with every community in the state of North Carolina,” said Settlemyer. “Most people don’t realize that the town is not authorized to make any improvements, even restriping the crosswalk, because this is an NCDOT highway. Members of the town board and town officials would have liked to have been able to make immediate changes and improvements. We have increased our patrol downtown to help with the safety issues in the interim.”
The DOT is expected to pick up the $144,000 tab, but Settlemyer would like to assure residents that the town will pitch in funds if needed.
“Improving this intersection is in the best interest of the community of Mocksville.”
He recognizes that the new crosswalk will be an adjustment for pedestrians, particularly those accustomed to making a quick dash across the street from The Factory Coffeehouse side to the Restaurant 101 side or those crossing to the courthouse.
“We know that people are going to continue to cross in the middle of the street because they aren’t going to want to walk down to the crosswalk,” said Settlemyer. “We will use our social media and our law enforcement to encourage people to use the safest crossing and if necessary, we will use warning citations and actual citations to move people to the safer intersection.”
He hopes that pedestrians will realize that three safe crossings are much better than one potentially unsafe one.
“The town and the DOT have worked closely together to provide a solution that is best for the citizens of Mocksville and for the safety of the downtown.”
Settlemyer also addressed the more recent accident in which a pedestrian and her child were injured crossing Salisbury Street on November 22nd, the evening of the Twas the Night Before Bed Race. The driver was cited for failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian.
He explained that the Mocksville Police Department conducted a careful analysis of the accident and accident site and determined that the site was well lit and the crosswalk was appropriately marked with reflective paint and speed was not an issue.
“The analysis indicates that the incident was an unfortunate accident.”
He shared that in the future, the town will be expanding the perimeter where police officers are stationed during events, particularly those at night or at dusk.
Upon the Town’s request, an independent consultant with special accident reconstruction software is also evaluating the accident.
“If they find any deficiencies or suggest any improvements, we will immediately work to make changes since Salisbury Street is a town street and we don’t have to wait on the DOT to make changes,” Settlemyer said.
“Our highest priority is to preserve the safety of everyone that lives in Mocksville, works in Mocksville and enjoys what Mocksville has to offer. We will continue to work with all our partners to ensure and enhance their protection.”