By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
City Commissioners said Thursday they are standing behind a decision by city engineers to add a median blocking left turns onto Texas Street from Prince even though business owners say it is hurting their traffic.
The median has turned what was a prime location into a back of the lot location, said Adrian White, owner of Papa Murphy’s Pizza.
The median was placed in the turning lane two weeks ago to prevent northbound traffic from turning left onto Texas Street. City planners say since being built in 1998, the entrance was always intended as a right-in, right-out and drivers were disregarding signs.
Also, City Engineer Justin Howalt said the entrance is offset from an opposing entrance on the other side of Prince Street and can lead to head-on conflicts as vehicles meet nose-to-nose in the center turn lane.
The issue was an increasing one, causing congestion, especially as the community continues to grow and traffic becomes heavier in that area, Howalt said.
The state transportation department approved the median plan, he said.
Howalt said the city added striping Wednesday to give motorists clear instructions as to how to navigate the median, with southbound traffic moving to the left of the median to turn into the entrance for Chili’s Grill and Bar and Dollar Tree.
White told commissioners his traffic has dropped and businesses in his shopping center are being forced to cut hours and lay off employees.
“That prime location that we had no longer exists,” he said. “It is conceivable that there will be businesses in that shopping center that will be relocating … Please re-examine the situation and remove the median.”
Mayor Gayla Brumfield told White and other business people expressing concerns the city has a responsibility to the safety of all residents.
“The city doesn’t set out to hurt businesses,” she said.
“You still have a good location. Change is always tough — Let’s give people a little while to get used to it.”
Commissioner Len Vohs told White and other opponents the city likely couldn’t remove the median even if it wanted to at this point, especially with it being approved by the state.
“The horse is already out of the gate,” he said.
In other business, commissioners:
• Gave planners approval to seek bids on improvements to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Howalt said cost for the project is estimated around $9 million.
• Heard a report on the Zoo’s third Easter egg hunt. Director Herschel Arnold said about 700 children attended and found 4,000 hidden eggs. The event drew a lot of visitors to the zoo and was a success, he said.
• Issued a proclamation naming April 24 as “Great American Cleanup” Day, and May 6th as the “National Day of Prayer.”