BR requests lower speed limits

Published 9:14 am Thursday, July 6, 2017

BERMUDA RUN – For years, the town has been trying to figure out how to slow down drivers.

The latest step came when members of the town council approved a resolution requesting NCDOT to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph on US 158 and NC 801 within the corporate limits.

“If time or speed is of the essence, then you go over a block and you have I-40,” said councilman Rick Cross. “Dropping it to 35 actually makes it feel more like a community and not just a thoroughfare.”

Despite building a roundabout entering the town from the west as a “traffic calming device” and dropping the speed limit from 55 to 45, concerns over speeding and safety prompted the resolution.

However, it only passed by a 3-2 margin with councilmen John Guglielmi and Ed Coley voting against it.

“I realize what we’re trying to do,” Guglielmi said, “but the fact we don’t have any cross streets between the stop light (at 801) and our circle, it was 55 at one time and we reduced it to 45, and I’m afraid if we reduce it to 35, it’s going to be considered a speed trap. I don’t think we need that as part of the town’s reputation.

“It would be better to have a meeting with the highway patrol and the sheriff’s department and decide how they’re going to monitor the speed on 158 and 801. I’m afraid 35 mph is not going to be accepted by the public.”

Mayor Ken Rethmeier said the Davie sheriff’s department won’t monitor speed and that the highway patrol would only do it intermittently on this and other state roads.

“To me, this is not a 35 mph road,” Coley said, and regarding enforcement, he added: “If you’re not going to enforce it, it doesn’t matter what the speed limit is.”

However, Mike Ernst, one on the newest council members added earlier this year along with Cross, argued reducing the speed from 45 to 35 isn’t that significant and that he can’t imagine the citizens being upset with the change.

“It only adds a few seconds,” Ernst said. “There are no cross roads, but there are a lot of turns. It seems to me when you’re entering a municipality, it’s a pretty normal thing to experience. There’s less chance of the risk of accidents if you just slow people down, especially with the roundabout.”

Rethmeier, who has frequently expressed his concerns over speeding in the town, said he conducted his own test on driving the stretch on US 158 from the roundabout to NC 801. He said it took 10 seconds more to cover that distance at 35 mph instead of 45 mph.

“When you come across the bridge and the roundabout entering into town of Bermuda Run, part of character and responsibility we have is the safety and well being of our citizens,” Rethmeier said. “One issue is 158, but 801 is dangerous as all get out at 45 mph. We’re lucky that someone hasn’t been killed at the entrance at the 801 gate.”

Cross said that if the town wants to be pedestrian friendly and bike friendly, nothing about the section on US 158 is conducive to either.

“The current infrastructure doesn’t allow for it, but we need to start thinking about putting ourselves in the position where hopefully there will be more turn-ins into this area,” he said.

Coley said that might be a better time to think about reducing the speed limit.

“If the time comes and you have additional cuts, when you have bicycle lanes and you have these things, that would be the appropriate time to think about it,” he said.

Councilman Jerry West, who said he was “all in favor of moving forward” on the 35 mph speed limit, made the motion for approval of the resolution with Cross and Ernst joining him on that side of the issue.

In other business last Tuesday night, the council approved a municipal agreement with NCDOT for construction of a new pedestrian bridge to replace Bert’s Way Bridge upon the widening of I-40. By doing so, Bermuda Run agreed to participate in the costs of the project in the amount of $250,000.

Ernst said that he wasn’t against the bridge but questioned whether it would be used and in demand with some of the variables, including plans for BB&T Sports Park, still not determined.

Rethmeier said that a parking lot was in the works near one of the lakes on the north side of the bridge and that a part of a parcel would be turned into a picnic area. He said it would also provide another option for those wanting to walk from the hospital who come over to Kinderton Village.

“The way I see it, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Rethmeier said. “If we don’t do this, that bridge comes down, and there will be no bridge – no way to cross there.”

Actually, the regular monthly meeting started as scheduled on the second Tuesday, June 13.

However, after a public hearing on the proposed 2017-18 budget was held where no one spoke, the budget was approved before a recess was requested because of the absence of Lee Rollins, town manager.

Rollins had surgery recently and wasn’t able to be at that meeting.

“Our town manager is in hospital and could not be here,” Rethmeier said. “He’s a valuable part of this process, and it would be wise to have his counsel.”

However, Rollins wasn’t able to attend last Tuesday night’s meeting.

The mayor and council all mentioned keeping Rollins in their thoughts and also planned to offer their help to the limited staff in the office with the absence of Rollins.