By Lisa Brown
After a delay of two years and concerns about safety, Rolesville’s U.S. 401 Bypass opened at the end of July with both a big welcome and a sigh of relief.
“A bypass is not something the NCDOT does every day. This has been new to us, and it’s been a big team effort to keep it moving along and make it safe,” said Joey Hopkins, a state Department of Transportation engineer.
The project involved not just the state but the county and town had roles in making it happen.
The big delay worried some that, in an effort to finish quickly, safety had been compromised. Rumblings grew to rumors and exaggerations of accidents numbering in double digits.
“There were three accidents in the first week – one on the bypass and the other two on the approach,” Rolesville Fire Chief Rodney Privette said.
“Given its location, night driving is a concern, and the configuration of the superstreet has confused many drivers who are not used to the way it functions,” Privette said. “It’s new to most people and will take a while to get used to. The public just isn’t familiar with superstreets, but with time and education, I think it will be fine.”
At night the only source of illumination along the bypass is from cars. The NCDOT does not erect streetlights, but must approve and oversee the lighting process.
“It’s not unusual for lighting to go up after construction of a road,” Hopkins said. “Oftentimes lights are leased from the power company if a town does not want to purchase them.”
The town will be talking with Duke Energy to have lighting installed.
The original design of the bypass made it easy for fire trucks to cross the medians. This would cut down on the time it took first responders to get to calls. As the construction neared completion, it was obvious to everyone that this detail did not translate into construction and there are poles that make this navigation impossible.
Still, Privette is confident that first responders will not be significantly hindered by this and have practiced and timed calls. “The delays won’t be major. I predict less than a minute,” he states.
In an ongoing effort to ensure safety, both the Rolesville Rural Fire Department and Rolesville Police Department have taken training classes specific to superstreets. These classes, all taught by certified safety instructors, will ensure the public and the fire and police departments are safe during calls.
“Even though the bypass is not within Rolesville city limits and technically not our jurisdiction, we’ve all been very concerned about safety and provided these classes to help,” Privette said.
Signage has been another major concern. Once the bypass opened and was operational, it was obvious that more wrong way, speed limit, and directional signs were needed. Signage is expensive and, in an effort to spare town taxpayer money, Town Manager Bryan Hicks has asked Wake County for help making signs that the town will install.
“I reached out to Wake County and offered the manpower of the town to help speed up the process,” Hicks said.
Mayor Frank Eagles has been working around the clock since the bypass opened on July 17, including police move construction barrels.
“We had to get out there and move barrels to help people from going the wrong direction,” he said. “I have to look out for what goes on and keep everyone safe.”
Every road has its bumps, and so does the making of every road. Roads are designed by engineers who never see the actual site. Communication can be a problem, and budgets fall short. Though promises were made and not kept, all interested parties are leaving behind grudges and working for the safety of Rolesville residents and everyone who uses the bypass.
“We are getting great cooperation from the people at DeVere Construction and the NCDOT,” Eagles said. “We (town officials) are all very concerned and, even though it’s not within city limits, we will do whatever it takes to make sure everyone is safe.”