Troubleshooter: Firefighters' crossover update

ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson

February 5, 2011 9:47:50 AM PST
A local fire chief, who asked the North Carolina Department of Transportation last year for a cut through to cut down response time, is now getting his wish.Since 2000, Bailey Fire Chief Tim Wilson had been fighting for an emergency crossover, the graded roadway that connects opposite lanes of a highway.

They are illegal for regular drivers, because they are supposed to be used for emergencies for police and fire departments.

They are all over the place, but not where the fire chief wanted one. So he got ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson involved last year.

In May, he showed ABC11 where he wanted them and why he needed them. "If we don't get these crossovers, and we've got to go to Middlesex and turn around and come back to Bailey we've probably killed 10 or 12 minutes," Wilson said.

The area in question is along U.S. Route 264 in Nash County between the Middlesex and Bailey exits.

Middlesex and Bailey split the coverage of US 264. Middlesex fire crews respond to calls for help on the eastbound lanes of US 264 and Bailey fire crews respond to all calls on the westbound lanes.

Chief Wilson says that miscommunication often leads to the wrong department responding for help.

There are about 4.5 miles between the two exits and with no emergency crossover; Chief Wilson says valuable time is wasted.

Despite valuable time being wasted in an emergency, the NCDOT told ABC11, while they have studied the area extensively, including crash data; they saw no need for an emergency cross-over. "We understand the desire, we understand the want, but we haven't seen the need," said Kevin Lacy in May.

But months later, Chief Wilson says he got shocking news out of the blue.

"We got a letter back from the state that said they reconsidered and they were going to put the crossovers in," he said.

The state is putting not just one, but two, which will help the Bailey fire department and the Middlesex fire departments, respond to emergencies along US 264.

The first crossover is along US 264 in Nash County between the Middlesex and Bailey exits. The second emergency crossover the state just put in is also in that same area, but between the Middlesex and Highway 39 exits.

And Chief Wilson says they have already been used several times, which saved valuable time in an emergency.

"It happened a few 100 yards west of the crossover and that allowed the crash truck, the ambulance, and instead of going all the way to Hwy 39, just hit the crossovers," he said.

A representative for the DOT said, they did look at the issue again, and when they went back out to the area their engineers determined two locations that met their criteria.

While the crossover's are there, they still need to be paved and posts need to be installed to limit access to emergency vehicles only, which the DOT rep says will be done in the spring when it warms up.

The rep adds, the work for the two emergency crossover's cost a total of $150,000, which they say is a little more than typical, but say it was to ensure they would be safe.

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