Taking a left turn onto Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard can be frustrating. It can become fatal when pedestrians are involved.
In an effort to keep drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists safe, the town of Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) began installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Longview Street last week.
Better traffic control on this busy road has been a concern of the town for years, but two pedestrian deaths in 2018 brought additional attention to the issue.
James Thomas Keeter, Sr. of Chapel Hill was killed in the northbound lane of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Feb. 18, and Stephen Daniel Taylor of Chapel Hill was killed in the southbound lane on Jan. 16.
“This isn’t necessarily a direct response to any one incident,” said Ran Northam, Chapel Hill community safety communications specialist. “We’ve known about this spot for a while as a high-risk area. There are two bus stops and this is a four-lane road. It provides some tricky situations for people turning, people on foot, people on bikes.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is a state-owned road managed by the NCDOT. The Town of Chapel Hill worked closely with the NCDOT this year to study traffic patterns and vehicle volume on the road, eventually choosing the intersection closest to LUX at Central Park and Mill Creek Condominiums as the most high-risk section of the road.
“As a driver and for convenience’s sake a traffic light might be a little problematic, but from a safety standpoint it’s going to help a lot of people,” said sophomore Ritwik Pavan, a resident of Mill Creek Condominiums.
Pavan, who travels on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard three to four times a day, says he understands the town’s decision to make changes to the road.
“Making a left turn is something I really have to pay attention to at that spot, and this should make that a lot easier,” Pavan said.
The project is expected to cost $135,000 including the traffic studies and construction costs. The traffic signal will be functional by April 20 if construction remains on schedule.
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