Currituck: No stoplight at waterpark
By Reggie Ponder
Thursday, April 20, 2017
CURRITUCK – Currituck County officials seem bewildered by the state Department of Transportation's apparent reluctance to approve a traffic light at the entrance to the enormous waterpark being built on N.C. Highway 158 in Lower Currituck.
Commissioner Paul Beaumont expressed concerns about traffic safety at the H2OBX site near the end of the Currituck Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday night.
Beaumont said there are a lot of concerns about how, absent a traffic light, northbound traffic on N.C. 158 will access the site during the summer months.
The recreational facility at Powells Point in Lower Currituck is slated to offer more than 30 rides, slides and attractions. Its projected growth could make it eventually the largest waterpark in America.
Beaumont said there definitely will be a traffic issue for northbound traffic trying to get into the park.
DOT needs to fast-track the placing of a traffic light at the entrance to the waterpark, Beaumont said. The waterpark is scheduled to open by Memorial Day in late May.
Without a traffic signal at the entrance to the waterpark there will be accidents, he said.
“That's inevitable,” Beaumont said.
Commissioner Mike Payment said he had spoken with DOT officials about the need for a traffic light at the waterpark’s entrance. They told him, he said, that they are concerned about the cost of the traffic light – including the cost of electricity – and by the fact that for six to eight months of every year a stoplight would simply be a flashing light serving no real purpose.
Beaumont said if the cost of electricity is actually a concern, he believes the company operating the waterpark would consider paying the electric bill for a traffic signal.
County Manager Dan Scanlon said DOT typically makes decisions about traffic lights based on history, and in this case there is no history of customers turning into the park because it hasn’t opened yet.
But county officials noted that the heavy traffic on U.S. 158 is well known and thoroughly documented.
Jerry Jennings, division engineer for N.C. DOT's Division 1, said Wednesday that DOT is following its standard procedure in the matter. A traffic impact analysis was conducted and DOT’s traffic engineering personnel reviewed the study and concurred with its findings, Jennings said.
“This study did not recommend a traffic signal,” Jennings said. “It did recommend a number of improvements to the driveway access and U.S. 158. These improvements are being made by the developer as a condition of the department's approval.”
Jennings said the cost of electricity was not a factor in the determination. He noted DOT would have to consider the impact a traffic signal would have on traffic traveling on U.S. 158. He also noted the decision can be reconsidered as time goes on.
“Once the water park opens the need for additional improvements can be evaluated,” Jennings said.