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Plan lowers hazards on Third Street
By Terri Rorke
Through a combined effort by the town of Pembroke, the Department of Transportation and the UNCP board of trustees, the Third Street campus entrances will undergo major changes to make pedestrian and automotive traffic as safe as possible.
Pembroke Police Chief Frank Hernandez said, “With that many exits, you’re going to have an accident.”
In fact, there have been more than 50 accidents between Pizza Hut and the Third Street and Odom Road intersection since March 2005.
“Third Street is the main artery of Pembroke, with flows of traffic congestion coming from Lumberton going to Maxton.
“There is a need for a stoplight,” said Sgt. Patricia Lambert of the Pembroke Police Department.
There are two projects in the works.
The first project, set to begin March or April 2007, includes construction of a new stop light at the intersection of Third Street and University Road near Pizza Hut, said Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Neil Hawk.
The project is estimated to finish before August 2007 in preparation of the fall 2007 semester, he said.
University Road will also be widened and include sidewalks for pedestrian safety.
The University Road and Third Street intersection has already received funding because DOT considers it to be a public crossing to the UNCP campus.
Public crossings can be funded much easier than private crossings, like the main campus entrance, said Hawk.
It was easier for the community to receive funding from the railroad company, CSX Transportation, and DOT for the project, he said.
In spring, crosswalks will also be constructed on Odum Road between Herbert G. Oxendine Science Building and Kentucky Fried Chicken, he said.
The second major project includes not only a stop light at the main Third Street campus entrance, but a complete change of traffic flow.
Unlike the public University and Third Street intersection, the main campus crossing is considered a private crossing, therefore DOT will not participate in the cost of those improvements, Hawk said.
But Hawk estimates that within two years, construction will begin on a total reconfiguration of the main campus crossing.Changes that will be made include:
• Realigning the entrance and exits of commuter parking lots number one and two with Lowry Road between Huddle House and McDonald’s restaurants.
• Constructing a stop light with crosswalks. This will be the main campus entrance on Third Street.
• A traffic circle will be constructed where people can exit campus or drive between the Student Health Services building and Mary Irwin Belk Hall to exit on University Road.
• A pedestrian mall will be constructed in place of Faculty Row. Vehicular traffic will be prohibited.
“That will give you better access and better control to both ends: the Huddle House, Pizza Hut and also into the university’s parking lot,” Hawk said.
Hawk explained that traffic will flow easier once the new work is finished.
“As you come into the university parking lot, instead of parking in the middle, you will park on the exterior.
Or if you don’t find [a parking spot], you can go across to lot one and you don’t have to cross 711. But you will have to come back around to the same entrance in which you came in at the stop light. One entrance. One exit,” he said.
“The university, town and DOT have discussed a lot of options and we’ve all agreed to this concept,” Hawk said.
“I don’t have any doubt it’s going to be much safer for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” he said about the major projects.
“Safety is more important than keeping the main entrance,” Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said.
“With all the accidents, it’s just something we got to do,” he said.
Meadors said there will likely be complaints about the construction because people will not have easy access to the campus.
But he said it will be safer for the community. Meadors, too, will experience inconvenience because of where he lives, but he said, “We’re as anxious as anyone else is to get it done.”
Amy Jacobs contributed to this article.