A scheduled vote on making a portion of Park Drive in Mount Airy a one-way street was delayed Thursday night after a roadblock arose in the form of neighborhood opposition.
That included criticism of the plan from a man who said his 92-year-old grandmother could be endangered by the proposal, which was triggered by increased traffic generated by a new Chick-fil-A restaurant on nearby Rockford Street.
“I just think there’s a better solution,” Patrick Owen told the city board of commissioners as it considered making a narrow section of Park Drive one-way from Reeves Drive to Forrest Drive. That change would allow drivers to go in a southerly direction only, from Chick-fil-A toward Forrest Drive.
“This is going to impact elderly people that can’t do anything about it,” Owen added regarding the proposal aimed at lessening traffic hazards — which he claimed could have the opposite effect instead.
Owen thinks the one-way configuration would cause more vehicles to be funneled onto Park Drive and that drivers wouldn’t slow down when turning onto it because of not worrying about oncoming vehicles. Owen and others think this would pose hazards for residents backing out of driveways, especially the elderly.
“The issue that we have is we go in and out of that driveway constantly,” Owen said of the situation with his grandmother.
Police Chief Dale Watson said the one-way plan arose from concerns about extra traffic resulting from the opening of Chick-fil-A about two months ago. As a result, the section of Park Drive in question, which runs parallel to Rockford Street behind the restaurant, has become more congested with motorists using it as a cut-through to reach the restaurant and avoid the busy U.S. 601.
“I don’t think its initial intent was to be a thoroughfare,” Watson said of the Park Drive route, which is only 14 feet, 6 inches wide. That requires vehicles approaching each other to veer onto the shoulders to avoid a collision. “There’s enough room there for one travel lane,” Watson said.
“We felt that this was the safest solution,” the police official added of the one-way street proposal devised after studies by him and other municipal personnel.
Watson said residents of the area were contacted about the change and generally were in favor of it, although he acknowledged the concerns by some including Owen.
Certain neighbors asked that the one-way format be in effect for shorter intervals than the entire stretch of Reeves Drive to Forrest Drive. But doing this would lessen the impact and defeat the purpose of the proposal, Watson said.
Owen, the only citizen actually to speak against the plan Thursday night although a small group of neighborhood residents attended the commissioners meeting, said one-way traffic might only worsen the situation.
“It’s a short cut now and it’s going to be more of a short cut if you change it to one-way,” Owen said of Park Drive.
A suggestion to widen the street also was raised Thursday night, but the resulting discussion indicated that this could be problematic as well.
While public roads normally are accompanied by a right of way on each side which basically is controlled by the government, the affected section of Park Drive presents unique obstacles.
“There’s a lot of issues that would roll up the costs of widening that road,” said city Public Services Director Jeff Boyles. Utility poles, fencing, irrigation systems and other fixtures exist right to the edge of the present pavement, based on Thursday’s discussion.
“The cost would be prohibitive,” Commissioner Scott Graham, the former owner of a paving company, said of what would be required to accommodate the traffic volume.
City Manager Barbara Jones said widening Park Drive also likely would not be embraced by the property owners due to the encroachment it presented.
In her opinion, the one-way street would be less of an inconvenience “than having cars coming up to their homes,” Jones said.
At the end of the discussion, none of the five commissioners saw fit to introduce a motion to implement the one-way configuration for Park Drive. But an alternate motion by Commissioner Steve Yokeley to postpone action until the matter could be studied further passed 5-0.
Owen asked that the commissioners visit the neighborhood and get a firsthand view of the situation before making any change.
Board members seemed willing to proceed cautiously to ensure the right solution is reached.
“One of the toughest jobs for commissioners is having to make decisions like this,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.