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Cornelius News

Speed limit increase on Bailey road irks residents, commissioners


By Dave Vieser. It sounded simple enough: Establish 25 mph school speed zones on Bailey Road in the vicinity of Bailey Middle School and Hough High School.

“There was a lot of concern expressed by parents of students and others in the area for general safety,” said Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant, “so we asked for the school zones to be established.”

But one has to include the NCDOT in this equation.

Bailey Road is a state-maintained thoroughfare so speed-limit changes must be approved by the NCDOT.

They went along with the town’s request, but with one major caveat: raising the speed limit on the remainder of Bailey Road from 35 mph to 45 mph, which they claim is the design speed of the road. “They would not implement the school zones without raising the speed limit to 45 mph,” Grant said.

DOT spokeswoman Jordan-Ashley Baker said “we evaluated the road and determined that 45 mph was the safe and reasonable speed for this section of road. There are a variety of factors we use to determine what a safe and reasonable speed limit is including roadway alignment, amount and type of development, and the number of driveways or access points. It was based on these factors we determined that 45 mph is a safe and reasonable speed limit for this section of roadway.”

The town’s cycling consultant was astonished. The rest of the world is lowering speed limits on streets that traverse residential neighborhoods.

“That sure caught me off guard,” said Commissioner Woody Washam. “With two schools, a major town park and multiple housing developments either there or on the way, 45 mph is simply too high and needs to be adjusted back to 35 while keeping the 25 mph speed limit in the school zones.”

Long-time resident Bobby Mayhew echoed Washam’s concerns when he spoke at a Town Board meeting in August. “With all those new developments approved for Bailey Road, 45 mph is too high,” he said.

Bailey Road motorists also have to navigate a number of curves as well as a steep grade just east of the Norfolk Southern train tracks. Business owners along Bailey just east of the hairpin turn and subsequent curves say the road is full of near-misses. “It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said one small business owner—with a considerable volume of customers each morning and afternoon.

Washam explained that  town staff initiated discussions with DOT to get the speed limit back  to 35 mph. “No DOT action as of yet, but I have asked our town staff to continue requesting this adjustment as we do need to be very proactive on this matter.”

Despite all that, the town has lowered the speed limit on Catawba Avenue from U.S. 21 to Smith Circle, about a tenth of a mile. The new 25 mph speed limit better matches speed limits east and west of this short two-lane stretch. Speed limits in downtown Davidson are 20 mph.

Momentum may be building to cut the 35 mph speed limit on North Main Street to 25 mph. The speed changes abruptly from 25 mph in pedestrian-friendly Davidson to 35 mph. About one year ago, during his Town Manager’s Report to the Town Board, Anthony Roberts asked if the commissioners were interested in exploring a cut in the speed limit on North Main to match Davidson’s 25 mph limit. No one spoke out, and nothing was done at the time.

However, since then, the town has received requests from residents to reconsider lowering the limit to 25 mph on North Main Street from the Davidson town line through the Washam Potts Road intersection.

“Since this would actually be a continuation of the Davidson limit, I would favor this request,” Washam said. “With the number of pedestrians, bikes and increased traffic on Main Street, now is the time to formalize this request with the DOT.”

Town officials are also discussing a possible beautification program for the Main Street area through this same corridor. “That’s an effort that has been needed for many years” Washam added.