The Charlotte Observer
Union County News
Larry Wood said he fears for his life when he drives out of his neighborhood.
“I have almost been hit a number of times, and so has everyone on my block,” Wood said. “The strategy is, pull out, floor it and hope someone doesn’t hit you.”
Wood has lived in Mandy’s Plantation, adjacent to merging Tilley Morris and Weddington Matthews roads, for 22 years. He said the neighborhood and surrounding area has grown from farm land to hundreds of residential and a few commercial properties.
It’s not the growth that bothers him, Wood said; it’s the dangerous stretch of curved road.
The speed limit is 45 mph on the half-mile of Tilley Morris Road, from the Mecklenburg-Union county line through the merger of Tilley Morris and Weddington Matthews roads to the intersection of the subsequent Matthews Weddington and Antioch Church roads.
Many say what makes the road potentially dangerous is the sharp curve approximately 500 feet from the merger of Tilley Morris and Weddington Matthews roads.
Advisory signs warn drivers in both directions to slow to 35 mph as they approach the curve.
“I’d like to see some acknowledgement that there’s a brewing problem and a plan to look at it,” Wood said.
Weddington Town Council members agree.
Councilman Michael Smith reviewed a crash data analysis from the N.C. Department of Transportation in September 2014. The Town Council addressed traffic and speed limit concerns at a retreat in February, when it was advised by N.C. DOT District Engineer Lee Ainsworth to present its case.
The crash data tracked accidents from July 1, 2009-June 30, 2014, from the Tilley Morris-Weddington Matthews roads merger site to the intersection of Matthews Weddington and Antioch Church roads.
There were 24 accidents during that period, with no fatalities. Eighteen had only property damage.
The number of accidents increased over the years from three in 12 months in 2009 to three in six months in 2014. The year with the most accidents analyzed was 2013 with eighth. Most the accidents were sideswipes, rollovers and accidents occurring when trying to turn, according to the report.
The N.C. DOT concluded there was not enough evidence to warrant a change in speed limit or more precautionary measures. N.C. DOT traffic engineers made the decision based on an updated crash data analysis, evaluation of the road’s alignment and width, the number of intersecting driveways and reviews of 85th percentile of average speed driven on the roadway.
The N.C. DOT crash report summarized accidents from Jan. 1, 2010, through June 30, 2015. There were 61 crashes with one fatality and 15 non-fatal injury crashes. The number of accidents increased from nine in 2010 to seven in six months in 2015. The highest number of crashes was 14 in 2012 and 13 in 2014.
Sean Epperson, N.C. DOT division traffic engineer, said most of the accidents were caused by motorists driving 55 mph or faster.
“These folks are not obeying the current speed limit and as such are unlikely to obey a lower speed limit of 35 mph,” he said.
He also said there were no other curves or hills that would cause concerns.
“The 85th percentile speed has been shown to represent a speed at which motorists feel comfortable traveling at, and a speed at which a roadway is safe to travel at,” said Epperson. “When a roadway has been specifically designed for a certain speed limit the 85th percentile speed will, within a few mph, be the same as the design speed.”
“Based on all the information, we feel that 45 mph is a safe and reasonable speed limit for this section of roadway.”
Mayor Pro Tem Don Titherington lives near that stretch of road. “The area has become a bigger concern because development has increased and because it’s such a hairpin turn,” he said.
Titherington and Wood predicted rapid development in the area will cause more problems. Town Planner Julian Burton said 90 lots are being built in Vintage Creek, a new subdivision whose entrance is in the middle of the curve. He also confirmed approximately 200 lots nearby had been submitted for review.
Titherington also said he was concerns about increased school traffic. He said recent redistricting funneled many students to Antioch Elementary, about a half-mile from the stretch of road in question.
“I’m always concerned when school starts up,” he said.
The Weddington Town Council was not satisfied with the N.C. DOT decision and motioned to have Titherington continue pushing for change.