State transportation officials said they'll study whether rumble strips are needed to improve safety at the Morgan's Corner-U.S. Highway 17 intersection in northern Pasquotank County. 

Pasquotank officials quizzed area DOT officials Monday night about installing additional safety measures at the busy intersection. The meeting followed one between county officials, several citizens and Newland Volunteer Fire Chief Robbie Whitehurst to discuss traffic safety concerns at the intersection.

“That area has been an ongoing problem,” said Commissioner Charles Jordan, the Board of Commissioners vice chairman. “The concerns are that there have been some very serious accidents there, and how we might slow the traffic down some.’’

NCDOT District Engineer David Otts said there were 47 accidents at the intersection between Jan. 1 2016 and Dec. 31 2020, and 30 of those were “rear-end” collisions.

“That is where people were stopped at the light and other people didn’t notice it,” Otts said. “It’s a matter of people not paying attention.”

Otts told commissioners one current safety measure in place are flashing warning signals a quarter-mile from the intersection warning motorists of the traffic light.

There are also devices near the warning signals that when activated will hold all four intersections on red if the devices detect a vehicle won’t clear the intersection before the signal turns. Farther back from the intersection there are also detection devices that won’t allow the signal to turn yellow if it detects a longer vehicle such as a tractor-trailer truck.

“Once they cross over that it will not allow the light to change,” Otts said.

Commissioner Barry Overman asked Otts if “rumble strips” could be installed to alert motorists of the impending traffic signal. The traffic signal on U.S. 17 South is the first stoplight that motorists coming out of Virginia encounter for almost 25 miles.

“That is definitely an option,” Otts said. “It will bring to your attention that something is going on and make you look up and see what is happening. I can definitely take that back to the traffic engineer and see if there are instances around the state where rumble strips are used in this case.”

Commissioners also discussed the impact of possible future development around Morgan’s Corner and other sites along future I-87 when the interstate highway is finally built.

County Planning and Inspections Director Shelley Cox told commissioners that two sites near Morgan’s Corner have already drawn initial interest from developers.

“That is definitely an area of the county that is going to be growing in the future,” she said.

Cox said a representative for a “general merchandise store similar to a Dollar General” has inquired about a parcel west of the Duck Thru on U.S. 158.

“I have been in contact with a design firm that is looking to install a retail sales building,” Cox said.

A “fast food” business had inquired about a parcel at the corner of U.S. 17 and Northside Road, Cox said.

“There has been some interest in putting a fast-food restaurant there, but I haven’t spoken to anyone recently and I don’t have any applications for it,” Cox said. “But I did have a concerned property owner ask why there are survey flags out. The homeowner that I spoke with mentioned Bojangles by name; however, I am not able to confirm that is correct.”

Cox suggested to commissioners that they consider creating a Highway Corridor Overlay Zoning District along sections of future I-87 in the area. The changes could include the adoption of additional setback requirements, setting site size standards and establishing driveway locations and driveway separation.

“When we are talking about future I-87, what we need to be doing now is preserving that intersection, preserving that corridor so it doesn’t make it harder for us to get those (highway) improvements down the road,” Cox said. “It is easier for us to plan for this right now when it is not really developed instead of 10 years, 15 years from now.”

The board’s Special Project Committee will now look at different options and provide Cox direction on possible future zoning changes commissioners could consider for the corridor.