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Big changes are coming to Tarboro Street as part of a broader traffic shift, but the temporary closure of the 100 block means headaches to motorists and businesses alike.
Rebecca Agner, Wilson’s communications and marketing director, said crews blocked off the street starting May 13, and the closure likely will continue through month’s end as a new sewer main is installed.
“We understand that infrastructure improvements can be an inconvenience for both residents and business owners,” Agner said. “The roadwork on Tarboro Street and Pine Street will be a temporary hardship for the next several months. But at the end of the project, we will have two resurfaced downtown streets that will better meet the community’s needs.”
During the street closure, the sidewalks are open to provide access along both sides of the street. Agner said if additional closures are necessary, the city will provide as much notice as possible.
“In most cases, adjacent streets can be easily used to access businesses on those streets,” she said. “We encourage residents to continue to visit downtown events and merchants throughout the summer.”
After the main is installed, crews will spend another few weeks installing new taps for the Tarboro Street buildings. The city’s sewer work is part of an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation, which maintains Tarboro and Pine streets. Once the city completes the work, the state has agreed to resurface the roads and turn over maintenance to the city.
“That is about one 1 1/2 miles of roads being resurfaced, which is like a 15% increase in resurfacing of Wilson streets but at no additional cost to the city,” said Public Works Director Bill Bass.
The agreement is part of a plan to convert Tarboro and Pine streets to two-way traffic. Art Happens on Tarboro owner Kim Joy said she’s eager to see the finished product.
“Everyone is looking forward to the resurfaced street, and I think the two-way traffic is going to be great,” she said. “I think it will make more people inclined to stop at the businesses. Right now, people use it mostly to get through downtown, but with a two-way street, the area becomes more of a destination.”
And Kimberly Van Dyk, the city’s planning and community revitalization director, echoed the sentiment about having east and west traffic along Tarboro and Pine streets between Hines and Vance streets.
“In downtowns, two-way streets are preferable because they generate more business investment and economic development as well as slow the traffic to a speed that makes it safer for drivers and pedestrians,” she said. “Two-way streets help small businesses grow as more pedestrians and passing drivers may take notice of the businesses they may have otherwise overlooked.”
The conversion is expected to be finished in the next six months, and Isahana Japanese Fusion owner Joe Castro said he’s optimistic about the change bringing more customers downtown. The restaurant at 126 Tarboro St. originally was set to open earlier this month, but Castro and his family have been working to get the building ready for business.
“We’ve been working on cleaning everything from top to bottom,” he said. “I have everything here, but we’ve been cleaning.”
Regardless of the street closure, Castro said he hopes to be open by Memorial Day with breakfast, lunch and dinner service.
Bass said in addition to converting Pine and Tarboro streets to two-way traffic, changes are coming to several intersections. Crews will have to install additional traffic signals on Nash Street, but the stoplights on Green and Vance streets will be removed in favor of stop signs for all lanes.
“Historically, streets were changed to one-way to efficiently move traffic before there were connections elsewhere. Two-way streets are more beneficial to merchants, but getting to repaving and the conversion will be cumbersome,” Bass said. “We can’t convert the whole street at the same time, so the plan is to convert the streets between Vance and Green first with two-way traffic and all-way stops at the intersections with Tarboro and Pine. The other conversions will happen after that.”