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Appearance woes plague U.S. 64

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An eastbound tractor-trailer speeds by the damaged guide sign for Exit 461 Thursday on U.S. 64 in Nashville.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Twin Counties signature east-west highway is looking a bit ragged in places these days.

Motorists driving on U.S. 64 are using a major thoroughfare where more than a few signs are either damaged or missing.

And more than a few other signs are dirty, listing to one side or are so old they do not illuminate off a motorist’s headlights at night.

Examples of damaged or missing signage are immediately visible along U.S. 64 in Nash County.

Heading west on the highway, there is not a big green sign alerting motorists a mile in advance of Exit 459, which is N.C. 58 for Nashville and Castalia.

So, unless westbound U.S. 64 motorists are accustomed to using the exit for N.C. 58, they would not know of one of Nashville’s key interchanges until moments before approaching the big green sign by the exit ramp.

Continuing west on the highway toward Raleigh, the big green sign at Exit 453 for Momeyer is missing, except for the exit number and the reference to this being an interchange for Secondary Route 1306.

Heading east on U.S. 64 toward Rocky Mount, only the left half of the big green sign for Exit 461 for Business U.S. 64 and Red Oak Road remains in place.

And due to more than a few instances of rainy weather, the highway had been the scene of high grass and weeds in places.

Although crews have gotten in with mowing machines to tame the growth along the sides of U.S. 64, the areas immediately along the guardrails remain lined with weeds.

Also, another downside to the mowing is the litter being chewed up and discharged from the machines, creating a new unsightly appearance.

The Telegram asked state Transportation Division 4 board member Gus Tulloss about the condition of signage along U.S. 64 and whether the department is having any issues as far as keeping the highway tidy.

“I’m very concerned — and we all are,” Tulloss said. “And it’s sort of statewide.”

Tulloss said he hopes the budget crunch the state Department of Transportation is facing is going to be over before long.

Tulloss was referring to the impact of weather-related costs and the costs of settling lawsuits on the department’s budget.

“But yeah, it’s terrible when it’s looking like that,” Tulloss said of the appearance of U.S. 64 in the Twin Counties. “It’s not a pretty scene — and we’re very aware of that.”

Additionally, he said he is “absolutely” concerned about motorists who are throwing trash along the sides of U.S. 64, but he noted one cannot expect the State Highway Patrol and others to spend a lot time pursuing litterers.

“Why folks would throw something out the window, I’ll never know,” he said.

At the same time, he said the plan is get crews out to pick up the trash.

State Department of Transportation District Engineer Bobby Liverman told the Telegram in an email that due to the department’s current budgetary restraints, the department has eliminated some of the contracts for the performance of non-essential functions.

Liverman said an example is trimming around the guardrails and said such work is instead being done by the department’s roadside maintenance crews.

State Transportation Department spokesman Andrew Barksdale relayed an email from Division 4 Roadside Environmental Engineer Steve Adams.

Adams said, “We are currently in the process of our last mowing cycle (number four).”

And Adams said all mowing of four-lane highways is going to be completed by the week before Thanksgiving.

As for road signs, Barksdale told the Telegram in an email that the department does have a schedule for night riding the highways and roads to evaluate sign reflectivity.

“We review all of the interstate routes each year,” Barksdale said. “We review half of our primary routes (U.S. and N.C. routes). And we review one-third of the secondary routes. We replace the signs that are determined to be ineffective.”

And Barksdale said that, “As for the large signs that are down, they are typically hit by motorists. We do try to collect from their insurance policies if we can determine who hit the sign. But ultimately the sign has to go back up.”

Barksdale said that, due to the department’s budget crunch, some of these signs are not being replaced unless they are absolutely necessary or their absence poses a traffic hazard.

“When our budget situation improves by next year, we can look to replace more of these signs,” he said.

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