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Currituck: No stoplight at waterpark

ProgressWaterPark

Construction on the H2OBX waterpark in lower Currituck continues in this Friday, March 31 file photo. Currituck officials say the N.C. Department of Transportation is reluctant to put up a stoplight at the entrance to the waterpark on U.S. Highway 158.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

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.

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