Washington traffic changes met with mixed reviews

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WASHINGTON N.C. (WNCT) – Changes on 5th Street in Washington are being met with mixed reviews. Some drivers said the changes have led to dangerous driving conditions.

5th Street, which used to be a four lane road, has now been cut to one lane in each direction, with a shared turn lane. Stanhope Deatherage almost got in an accident due to the changes.

“A car to my right nearly side swiped me and I had to slam on the brakes,” Deatherage said.

Deatherage has to make the drive from Washington to Greenville everyday to attend ECU. He said very little warning was given about the traffic changes, which has led to a lot of confusion and slower commutes.

“You only go as fast as the slowest person in front of your considering it’s only one lane now,” he said.

In just a few minutes, WNCT’s Josh Birch observed several cars going straight in a turn only lane, and weaving into another lane in order to go straight.

DOT officials said they started discussing the changes in the late part of 2014. Steve Hamilton said the changes are intended to make the road safer.

“They were narrow lanes and when they had heavy trucks on them it squeezed it down,” Hamilton said.

The $12,000 project was completed at the end of May. In order to reduce confusion, Hamilton said they put signs up to warn drivers.

The changes are being met with praises from emergency responders in Washington. Fire Chief Robbie Rose said the changes have been needed for a while.

“I mean it’s a lot wider lanes, it’s a lot easier path of travel for us with that large of vehicle,” Rose said.

Rose said the new traffic pattern is just something that will take time for everyone to get used to.

However, those who have lived in Washington their entire life said the change came as a surprise. Elizabeth Woolard said she was caught in a turn only lane, which she used to be able to travel straight in.

“I turned anyway because I was afraid to try to get into the other traffic,” Woolard said.

Washington Police said there have been three accidents on 5th Street since the changes, but none are being blamed on the new traffic pattern.

Road work is expected to continue along 5th Street throughout the summer at DOT begins to resurface the road. Hamilton said he hopes that work will be done by August.

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