Whether it involves dangerous roads without guardrails, standing water in roadways or the N.C. Department of Transportation’s controversial use of tar and loose gravel, a Dobson-area group wants to see improvements.
Southern Cross, which has been described as a small motorcycle/motor vehicle organization — which also advocates for various causes and charities — has mounted a petition drive aimed at building a grass-roots awareness of the road problems.
Copies of the petitions have been placed at various sites in the Mount Airy, Dobson and Elkin areas which concerned citizens can sign, according to Joe Davis, the head of Southern Cross, which was formed about two years ago.
In addition to circulating petitions, and soliciting signatures door to door, the group has contacted Sen. Shirley Randleman, who serves Surry County in the N.C. General Assembly, the governor’s office and others to enlist their aid in the campaign.
“Southern Cross needs your support getting (officials) to fix our road conditions and maintenance procedures,” the petition states in part.
“Our roads in Surry, Stokes and Wilkes County, like Judsville School Road, Haystack Road, Red Hill Creek Road and many others in the surrounding area, are hazardous and unfit for safe travel,” it continues.
“Our roads have places that are so narrow, certain vehicles take up an entire lane and cause unsafe conditions for other travelers. Also, during rainstorms we have certain roads that can hold almost an inch of standing water with no drainage trench, or storm drains. Our roads need guardrails, notifications for dangerous turns and proper maintenance.”
Of particular concern to Southern Cross is “road crews spreading gravel and tar that will be knocked into a ditch within a day,” the petition says.
“Spreading tar does nothing to fix ruts, cracks and broken pavement; it only contours to the surface that is already there. There are much better methods to fix the roads, and we are petitioning the state to begin using methods that properly maintain them, like repaving and widening.”
Accumulations of loose gravel on road surfaces are especially hazardous for motorcyclists, and Davis cited a major accident last year caused by that. “People who drive it every day know it doesn’t work.”
Davis also mentioned a bridge without guardrails near the intersection of Prison Camp Road and N.C. 89.
“If it’s dark and raining, you could run right in the creek there,” he said.
Davis said copies of the petitions have been placed in these locations:
• The Mount Airy Police Department.
• Dobson Town Hall.
• Dobson Produce.
• Elkin Town Hall.
• Jonesville Town Hall.
“Those will be our primary locations where they will be all the time,” Davis said.
“We figure the town halls will be a great place and a secure area for people to come in and sign these petitions.”
Davis said the petition drive is expected to continue into June.
Once completed, the documents will be turned over to various elected officials and others.
Davis added that Sen. Randleman’s office, which Southern Cross contacted for help with possible solutions, is monitoring the situation. “They are looking forward to seeing all the signatures.”
No new taxes
When confronted with major transportation needs, politicians on national and state levels often say money is an obstacle and projects can’t be undertaken without more funding.
But Davis was quick to say this week that the Southern Cross position is the road needs should be funded under the present tax framework.
North Carolina’s gasoline tax is presently 35 cents per gallon, the 10th-highest in the nation.
“We’re already paying the state of North Carolina an abundance of taxes,” Davis said, which occurs with each fuel purchase.
He also believes some of that funding is mismanaged, listing the tar and gravel surfacing as an example.
“They’re telling us it’s cheaper,” Davis said of DOT representatives he’s contacted.
“On some of these roads if they would just pave them, they wouldn’t have to touch them for another 10 to 15 years.”
Davis’ contacts with various state entities produced a written response regarding the tar and gravel method from Daniel Adams, traffic engineer for Division 11 of the DOT in North Wilkesboro, which covers Surry County.
“This type of treatment is very effective in preserving our large highway system, especially on the secondary road system,” Adams wrote Davis.
“We agree that loose stone is not something that anyone wants to travel on, and therefore it is a requirement in our contracts that AST (asphalt surface treatment) routes must be swept within three days of resurfacing,” the DOT engineer continued.
“If the routes are swept immediately after placement, all of the new stone would be removed and only tar would be showing, so the initial sweeping is completed after the stone has adhered completely. Should there be a need for us to sweep any routes again, we would be glad to do that. We, too, want to ensure the safety of the traveling motorists/cyclists.”
Adams also acknowledged the absence of curve warning signs in some locations, where a reduction in speed is needed to safely travel through an unexpected or excessively sharp curve.
“During our investigation we did find some missing alignment warning signs,” he wrote.
“These signs will be installed in the near future.”
The Southern Cross leader conceded the difficulty of petition drives or other grass-roots efforts to alter bureaucratic practices, but hopes public awareness about the problems somehow will spur improvements.
“If they are going to charge us at the gas pump,” Davis said of tax revenues used by the DOT, “then these are the things they need to be doing.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.