ROCKINGHAM — Drivers going to and from the Richmond County Ninth-Grade Academy will need to slow down after a reduced speed limit took effect this week.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has lowered the speed limit on Wiregrass Road between County Home Road and U.S. 1 from 55 mph to 45 mph. State transportation crews posted the new 45 mph speed-limit signs early this week.
The stretch of Wiregrass Road east of Rockingham is near the ninth-grade academy on County Home Road. Officials said a high proportion of crashes and the number of driveways off Wiregrass factored into the decision.
“The development along this section of roadway is 37 percent,” said Evan McKinnon, deputy division traffic engineer. “In that range, you’re looking at dropping it down from a 55 because there’s enough conflict points with the driveways.”
Transportation officials studied the 49 crashes reported on Wiregrass Road between March 1, 2009, and Feb. 28 of this year and found that 31 occurred within the 55-mph zone between County Home Road and U.S. 1, McKinnon said.
The state traffic engineer signed an ordinance reducing the speed limit to 45 mph in April, but new speed limits don’t take effect until new signs are posted. State statute allows the NCDOT to set speed limits on state-maintained roads.
Traffic engineers hope the lower speed limit will result in fewer wrecks on Wiregrass Road.
“We’re never going to prevent them all,” McKinnon said, “but if we can reduce them, we’re doing pretty good.”
Elected officials and residents can request speed limit changes from the Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways. Engineers conduct a 48-hour traffic count and review a road’s five-year crash history before making a decision.
McKinnon said Richmond County residents who believe a speed limit on a state-maintained road should be changed can call the DOT’s Division 8 traffic services office in Carthage at 910-947-3930.