Making the best decision, for Clemmons now and for the future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 6, 2018

And now the time has come — a median for the most busy section of Lewisville-Clemmons Road or not?

That will be decided, at least on the local level, in the Sept. 10 meeting in Village Hall when the Clemmons Village Council weighs all the evidence and renders its verdict.

Based on last year’s election, the median doesn’t stand a chance. After all, the mayor and three new council members were basically elected on a “no median” platform.

Even Mayor John Wait mentioned in the Aug. 13 council meeting that “the most important public input session probably happened in November.”

Of course, much has changed since then, including the new council not reversing a resolution that supported NCDOT’s request for a median on Lewisville-Clemmons Road by the previous council in February but approving a directive with different language.

That was the result of concerns being expressed on the median being tied to the bridge project over I-40 and the impact on the current feasibility study on the entire road by NCDOT, ultimately leading to the recommendation of a median (from I-40 to Stadium Road) but on only 20 percent of the entire stretch of road that extends to U.S. 158.

The focus from NCDOT has always been on safety and traffic flow — with an accident rate of about 2.5 times higher than the average rate on similar corridors throughout the state — and while the council shares those concerns, the impact on businesses in the area and navigating the issues with the access, side roads and shopping centers remain obstacles.

There’s also the dilemma of not having all the design details on this project before making a decision, knowing the I-40 interchange would still go forward as a state project even if this doesn’t and wondering if a median might follow anyway.

The council even decided to hire a couple of economics professors from Winston-Salem State to do an economic impact analysis report on the project, which resulted in their recommendation to move forward with it as they stated the economic benefits appear to outweigh the economic costs by a 2-1 ratio.

Craig Richardson, one of the WSSU professors, asked this in last week’s work session: “Do you want to have more business, more population? Do you want economic growth? Some villages are happy to stay at a certain size and stay idyllic and easy to get to. Other places want to grow very quickly. When I come to Clemmons, I think it was a village that wanted to grow really quickly at first and now I’m not sure what you all want to do, but what I would say when you think about a solution, are you thinking about today or 10 years from now?”

And then there was this from the other WSSU professor, Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi: “You want to talk to your planner about what is your master plan and everything else that you want to put in it. Do not define your problem in terms of your solution. The problem cannot be ‘we don’t have a median.’ The problem is we have too many accidents. What’s the best solution?”

From my viewpoint, there are no perfect solutions, but proceeding with the NCDOT plan for Lewisville-Clemmons Road improvements (yes, including the median) makes the most sense (and cents, too, since the $21 million project comes with no cost to the Village unless sidewalks are added).

OK, Option C — the one recommended by NCDOT because it was considered best for safety and traffic flow — restricts movements and might be inconvenient until everyone adjusts, but hopefully other improvements can be made to alleviate some of the concerns.

Remember NCDOT officials saying they would work to mitigate and minimize the impacts — but obviously can’t do everything to make everyone happy, especially with the road being the mess that it is — when working through the final design. A U-turn bulb for trucks suggested by one of the economics professors might be worthy of consideration along with some of other specifics mentioned by council that wouldn’t compromise safety and traffic flow.

And yes, businesses will be impacted — some more than others — but the reality is that the two professors hired by the Village for an economic impact report said that their analysis showed that the benefits for moving ahead with the project outweighed the costs.

I couldn’t agree more with what councilman Mike Combest said at a recent meeting regarding that part of the equation.

“If we don’t do something out there, that stretch of Lewisville-Clemmons Road is going to pay a big economic price,” he said. “The No. 1 reason people abandon shopping districts is safety, followed closely by unacceptable congestion. I hate harming our businesses because of increasingly unsafe conditions.”

So maybe having a median would actually help in that regard.

Then, as stated earlier, there‘s the thought that if the council chooses not to do the project, the I-40 interchange would go forward as a new state project — and NCDOT might still add a median anyway.

At least for now, Clemmons has some control and can be part of the process going forward by giving the green light.

Regardless, there is much work left to do.

Let’s just hope the council considers everything that is now on the table. This shouldn’t involve politics at this stage, although that’s difficult to avoid. What’s most important is to do what is best — considering all the current information — for Clemmons now and in the future.