By Lisa Brown
Wake Forest has seen tremendous growth in just a few years. New housing construction and a commercial boom have brought more vehicles to roads they were not intended for. Complicating things, roads and construction that had been planned before the recession took back seats and some fell by the wayside completely, leaving the town with needs and not enough budgeted money.
The biggest stumbling block for the town and making improvements to roads is that 70 to 80 percent of the roads are controlled and maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Knowing there are certain issues that need to be dealt with is a frustration for town officials and residents alike. Changes, big and small, start with the state.
A little over a year ago, Caveness Farms resident and former accident investigator and reconstructionist Michael Janas brought a proposal to the town providing statistics and proof of the need for a light at the intersection of Caveness Farms Avenue and Capital Boulevard.
Accidents at the intersection, until very recently, had been fender benders, but Janas “knew it was a matter of time until there was a fatality.”
In September, Braden Rock, 15, a student a Heritage High School was on his way to class and sat in the passenger side of the car his sister, Faith, was driving. She was attempting to make the left turn from Capital onto Caveness and was hit by an oncoming car. The very thing Janas had worried about happened.
“This left turn is especially dangerous,” Janas says. “It is difficult to determine the speed of the cars coming down Capital Boulevard, and most people are traveling well above the speed limit of 55.” Further, the last posted speed limit sign is before South Main Street, so there is no reminder for drivers what the limit is in that vulnerable area. Nighttime darkness and adverse weather conditions compound an already problematic situation.
Turning right from Caveness onto Capital proves to be a problem, as well. Now that Caveness is an access road, drivers are using it as a cut-through to avoid the congested intersection of Capital and South Main. New apartments, The Estates of Wake Forest, plus Caveness Farms and The Villas of Wake Forest have created more traffic than, which is likely to continue to increase.
Nicole Hopkins of Wake Forest was behind another driver waiting to take a right a couple of months ago. After waiting a few minutes for traffic to clear, the driver turned. Nicole waited her turn and, not seeing traffic coming on Capital, turned right. Unbeknownst to her, the driver in front of her had not been able to merge on to Capital safely as he assumed he could, and pulled to the shoulder to get out of the way. Thinking he had gone and unable to see, Hopkins hit the back left of his car.
Hopkins now avoids that intersection altogether. “It makes me nervous and people behind me were impatient so I’d rather just go around the long way,” she says.
Many of these issues were going to be addressed when Sam’s Club was due to be built off Ligon Mill Road behind Caveness Farms. With its construction would come an extension of Ligon Mill to N.C. 98, and two additional traffic lights. One light would be at the corner of Caveness and Capital, and the other would be at the entrance to the Red Robin, Chili’s and Texas Roadhouse restaurants.
According to Eric Keravuori, director of engineering for the town, Capital would become what is known as a “super street” and those two lights would become two-phase signals that would sync with the intersection at Capital and South Main.
However, construction of Sam’s Club was put on hold and the lights were included in that delay. Chip Russell, town planning director, says the Sam’s Club is still under contract. He said the company “had some restructuring at the corporate level” and he expects construction to resume in the fall.
Wake Forest Commissioner Jim Thompson said he had just been informed of the delay himself. “To say I am disappointed is an understatement,” he said. “The greatest thing about them (Sam’s Club) coming was the lights.”
Thompson explains that spending for capital improvements, like new roads, is based on needs and development. In this case, town officials required installation of a signal, to be paid for by the developers, as a condition of building a new Sam’s Club.
There are three other intersections in town that will get new traffic lights: Franklin and N.C. 98, Jones Dairy and Chalk, and Heritage and Heritage Lake.
Traffic in the coming months will prove trying for other reasons. Bridges are scheduled to be fixed, which will cause backups in those areas. And until Sam’s Club starts construction, that section of Capital Boulevard will remain as it is.
In the meantime, Janas is hoping to see at least a caution light or sign for drivers are approaching the Caveness Farms Avenue and Capital Boulevard intersection. A larger police presence making sure drivers slow down could also help.
Ultimately, everyone asks drivers to slow down, refrain from pressuring the driver in front of you to go when it’s not safe or unknown, and to exercise a lot of patience.