Jones Ferry Road Reconfiguration Starts Monday

A busy stretch of Jones Ferry Road is going on a diet.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is breaking ground Monday on a road diet project that will trim travel lanes between Highway 54 and Barnes Street in Carrboro.

According to DOT officials, the half-mile span has been the site of numerous bicycle and pedestrian accidents in the past five years.

The road diet plan will reduce through lanes from four to two, and add turn lanes, a median, bike lanes, crosswalks, sidewalks and a traffic signal at Davie Road, all in an effort to improve safety.

Construction will take place daily between 7 a.m and 9 p.m. Drivers should plan for alternating lane closures and delays throughout the process, which is expected to be completed in March of next year.

One Killed in Fiery Wreck on Highway 86 in Cedar Grove

The driver of a tractor-trailer carrying propane was killed in a wreck in northern Orange County just after 6:30 this morning.

All northbound lanes of NC 86 near Cedar Grove were closed after the wreck at the intersection of NC 86 and Sawmill Road.

State Troopers say a preliminary investigation shows a 2007 Chevrolet sedan was traveling west on Sawmill Road toward NC 86 in Cedar Grove when it failed to stop at a stop sign and traveled into the intersection, striking the right side of the tractor trailer.

The tractor trailer then overturned and caught on fire, according to law enforcement. The sedan came to rest in a near-by yard.

The driver of the truck was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS personnel.

The driver of the sedan was taken to Duke Hospital with serious injuries, according to authorities.

This story will continue to be updated as more information is made available.

AAA: Labor Day Travel To Hit 7-Year High

North Carolina will see the highest number of Labor Day travelers in nearly a decade, according to AAA Carolinas.

Spokesperson Tiffany Wright says low gas prices could be fueling that wanderlust.

“Folks are going to see the lowest prices they’ve seen in 11 years,” says Wright. “Right now the statewide average is about $2.22 per gallon. It’s gone down seven cents in a week and 43 cents since July 4. We’ve seen the downward trend here. Motorists right now are paying $1.10 less per gallon than they were the same time a year ago for Labor Day.”

More than 880,000 people are expected to hit the road over the long holiday weekend. Myrtle Beach, Greensboro, Orlando, Gatlinberg and Asheville are the top travel destinations for drivers.

While gas prices are dropping, hotel rates are headed up. Wright says room rates are rising between 2 percent and 10 percent compared to last year.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the demand,” says Wright. “When you talk about gas prices and you have more people traveling, especially driving, you have a lot of hotels trying to be competitive. It’s all about competition in the market.”

This Labor Day, hotel rates are estimated to be higher than in any of the past five years.

If you’re heading out for one last road trip before summer ends, you can expect to see checkpoints and stepped-up police patrols, as law enforcement officials conduct this year’s “Booze It and Lose It” campaign to get intoxicated drivers off the road.

You won’t see much construction on the highways, as the North Carolina Department of Transportation is suspending work on current projects until 9 o’clock Tuesday morning.

Cyclist Hit at Franklin-Columbia Intersection on Tuesday

A female cyclist was transported to UNC Hospitals on Tuesday afternoon after being struck by a vehicle, Chapel Hill Police confirmed on Wednesday.

WCHL first reported the collision based off of eye-witness reports that the crash occurred around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets.

A police official says the cyclist suffered “serious but not life-threatening” injuries.

The spokesperson adds the driver of the vehicle stopped and was cooperating with the investigation, which is ongoing.

No further information is available at this time concerning the status of the cyclist.

Traffic Blocked on Hillsborough Street

A tree is leaning on a power line on Hillsborough Street in Chapel Hill.

Hillsborough St_2

The road is closed from Bolinwood Road through Rosemary Street, according to fire officials.

They anticipate the road being closed for “a while.”

Avoid the area. No traffic is being allowed through.

Memorial Day Motorists Expected To Hit 10-Year High

If you’re hitting the road this weekend, you won’t be alone. AAA Carolina’s Tiffany Wright says 1,029,500 North Carolinians are expected to come along for the ride.

“That’s the highest number that we’ve seen in ten years, so lots more folks on the road this Memorial Day holiday,” says Wright.

Wright posits two reasons for the projected increase: an improving economy and lower gas prices.

“They’re considerably lower than they were this time last year. You’re saving about $1.07 per gallon.”

The average price for a gallon of gas in North Carolina is $2.55. Asheville has the state’s highest average gas price at $2.61. Wilmington is not far behind, with an average price of $2.59.

Wright says you can always expect to pay more at popular destinations.

“They’re always going to typically have the higher prices at the pump, and that’s just because they can. More folks are going to be willing to pay as they’re on vacation.”

Air travel is on the rise as well, with 82,800 North Carolinians expected to fly this weekend. The top destinations are Orlando, Baltimore and Seattle.

Wright reminds motorists, if you are driving, put away your cell phone and keep distractions to a minimum.

Expect A Tenth Of An Inch Of Ice Tuesday Night

With the threat of freezing rain in the forecast, Orange County is under a Winter Weather Advisory from 7:00 Tuesday evening through noon on Wednesday.

“Temps are going to drop through the evening, down around freezing by 9:00 or so,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Ellis. “Initially that won’t cause a problem, but as precipitation starts…you’ll start to see the first impacts around midnight or so, (with) glazing on overpasses and bridges first…

“As precipitation increases after midnight, expect to start seeing travel impacts on the roadways (through) the morning commute.”

Ellis says it’s not yet clear how much precipitation is going to fall, but forecasters expect about a tenth of an inch of ice. Ellis describes the expected impact as “low to moderate” – road conditions will be treacherous, especially during the morning commute, but there shouldn’t be many power outages or downed trees.

“The worst case scenario would probably be two-tenths of an inch (of ice),” Ellis says. “The best case scenario is that the precipitation doesn’t make it as far north – and if we don’t get a lot, we could see very limited impacts with maybe just patchy ice on bridges and overpasses.”

Still, even a small amount of ice is enough to cause havoc on the roadways. “Last week in Sampson County…they had a very brief period of very light drizzle and rain, and they had 17 cars off the road within a couple hours,” Ellis says. “It doesn’t take much with the ice.”

So when will the ice go away? Ellis says it shouldn’t be long: the precipitation should end around 10:00 Wednesday morning, and temperatures will rise above freezing around then as well.

“Once the temperatures warm back up…you get cars traveling over the road (and) things heat up a little better,” Ellis says. “So we don’t anticipate impacts beyond Wednesday morning.”

Continue to check for updates on the weather, as well as any school and business closings, cancellations or delays.

Low Gas Prices Fueling High Thanksgiving Traffic

Reporting by Blake Hodge.

Thanksgiving week is here, and that means many residents of the Tar Heel state are visiting family. AAA Carolinas spokesperson Tiffany Wright says you will have quite a bit of company on North Carolina’s thoroughfares over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“There will be about 1.2 million travelers on the road in North Carolina,” Wright says. “That’s an increase of about 48,000 from last year. Travelers that will be traveling 50 miles or more from home, 90% of those will be on the road.”

Wright says prices at the gas pump continuing to drop has allowed more residents to travel the highways visiting family.

“It’s impressive,” she says. “Look back to Labor Day: in fact we’re down $0.57 than we were paying from Labor Day. So motorists have a lot more money in their wallets to spend during this holiday season.”

Travelers making their way across North Carolina will see the highest gas prices in Asheville, at $2.92 per gallon. The Charlotte-Gastonia area, however, has the lowest prices in the state, at $2.73 per gallon. If you are travelling out of the state, many of North Carolina’s neighbors have prices very similar, in some cases even slightly lower, than the Tar Heel state.

Wright adds that the Thanksgiving period technically runs from Wednesday through Sunday. “The day before Thanksgiving, that Wednesday, is the worst traffic day of the year,” she says. “If you don’t have to leave on Wednesday, try and leave before Wednesday. If you do have to leave on Wednesday, try and leave before 2 PM, or – if you can afford to stay a little bit later at home – wait until after 7 PM.”

The congestion on the roadways can turn the highways deadly, as 12 people died last year over the Thanksgiving period in crashes on North Carolina Highways.

Two Hit By Car Thurs Night On Franklin St

Another incident involving a vehicle striking a pedestrian – two pedestrians, in this case – occurred late Thursday night in downtown Chapel Hill.

According to Chapel Hill police, the incident took place on West Franklin Street at about 11 p.m. Two pedestrians, one male and one female, were struck by a vehicle in the crosswalk by SunTrust Bank.

The driver remained on scene, and both pedestrians were transported to UNC Hospitals with minor injuries.

The full statement from Chapel Hill Police is below:

“On Thursday at approximately 11 p.m., the Chapel Hill Police Department responded to a reported traffic accident involving two pedestrians on W. Franklin St. Upon officers arrival they found a male and female that had reportedly been struck by a vehicle while in the crosswalk in front of SunTrust Bank.  Both the male and female were transported to UNC Hospital with what appeared to be only minor injuries. Both driver and vehicle were still on scene. The investigation is ongoing and additional information will be forthcoming.”

The Town of Chapel Hill has stepped up its efforts to promote bike and pedestrian safety this month – including targeted enforcement and electronic signs in high-traffic areas. Read more about it here.

Cyclist Killed Friday Was Durham Resident, 57

Chapel Hill Police have announced the identity of the cyclist who was killed in a vehicle collision last Friday: Pamela Lane, 57, of Durham.

The accident took place at 9:39 on Friday morning, near the intersection of MLK and Hillsborough. Lane was riding her bike on the sidewalk of MLK when she was struck by a vehicle that was exiting the parking lot of a gas station near that intersection. Lane was transported to the emergency room at UNC Hospitals, but died later of her injuries.

Chapel Hill Police are still investigating the accident. No charges have been filed so far.

The full statement from Chapel Hill Police:

On Friday, October 3rd at approximately 9:39 AM, the Chapel Hill Police Department responded to a report of a traffic collision involving a motor vehicle and a cyclist. The collision occurred on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, just north of the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Hillsborough Street.
The cyclist was transported to UNC Emergency Department and later died from injuries resulting from the collision.  The cyclist has been identified as Pamela Lane (57) of Coggins Mine Ct. in Durham.
Investigators believe that Ms. Lane was traveling southbound on the eastern sidewalk of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the motor vehicle was exiting the parking lot of the gas station at the Hillsborough St. intersection.  The investigation into the collision is on-going and no charges have been filed at this time.