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TOP STORY: Rockingham’s Harrington Square Sees Repeated Damages from Tractor Trailers; Long and Short-Term Plans Set in Motion to Reduce Issues

A pile of crumbled bricks from a wall in Harrington Square in Rockingham after a tractor trailer damaged the wall last week.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Pierce.

ROCKINGHAM – Individuals driving through downtown Rockingham in recent weeks may have noticed a few things.  Perhaps they noticed the street lights, festively adorned with lights and wreaths, or maybe they noticed the perfectly poised reindeer stationed as if they’re there to greet all who enter downtown.  Or, possibly, their attention was grabbed by the towering Christmas tree that now stands in the town square.

But many have also noticed something else that has not been such a pleasant sight to see: broken bricks.

Within the past few weeks there have been two separate accidents in this picturesque part of town involving tractor trailers.  In both cases, the accidents involved only the tractor trailer, and there were no bodily injuries. 

The Harrington Square brickwork, however, was not as lucky and sustained roughly $1,500 worth of damages each time.

It has been made aware to the Richmond Observer that the trucking company that was responsible for the first accident paid for all of the damages, and the company who is responsible for the most recent destruction has notified officials that they will do the same.

However, damages such as these are just a small part of a bigger problem.

“Unfortunately, damages from tractors trailers traveling through downtown is a somewhat common occurrence,” explained Rockingham’s Assistant City Manager, John Massey.  “Tractor trailers have damaged street trees, decorative street lamp posts, Christmas decorations, curbing, sidewalks, planter grates, parked cars, and the building at the corner of S. Hancock and E. Franklin several times.”

The simplest explanation for the cause of this ongoing problem:  size.

A standard sized trailer for a semi-truck is 48 feet in length, plus the length of the driver’s cab.  This is nearly three times the size of an average car, which measures in at an averaged 16 feet.  Combined with an extended turning radius and a series of turns within a short stretch of road, and damages such as those described by Massey are bound to happen at some point.

Such a combination of length and turning radius can present challenges for drivers on any road, let alone those of Rockingham’s Harrington Square.

Contingent upon the northward or southbound direction of travel, this iconic portion of Rockingham’s downtown scene contains not just one, but two, 90 degree turns for drivers to navigate. 

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“The tight constraints in these turns causes problems for some truck drivers and results in much of the damage,” added Massey.  “I suspect the damages to the wall on the square are a result of truck drivers attempting the avoid the southbound 90-degree turn.”

Although holding the trucking company accountable for each accident is one way to fix this ongoing problem, it is evident that a more permanent fix needs to be implemented. 

“The best long-term solution is to direct truck traffic around downtown with the designation of Greene Street as a US Highway 1 Bypass or truck route,” Massey described.

However, as Massey explains, the process to have this officially changed is far more complicated than making a public proclamation of a new route and hanging a few signs.  In order for Greene Street to be officially deemed downtown Rockingham’s truck route, it must meet a specific set of both North Carolina Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration standards. 

Presently, Greene Street does not meet all of these standards to qualify as a designated truck route, and therefore, updates will need to be made.  At this time, the project proposal for such updates has been included in the NCDOT’s State Transportation Improvement Plan, also known as STIP, and is on the calendar for 2021.

Fortunately, though, the city of Rockingham has devised a short-term plan to preserve this area of downtown until this project is began.  As the brick work is being repaired, a set of three steel bollards, which totaled approximately $1,500, will be installed.  These bollards will serve as a protective barrier for the delicate brickwork until the 2021 project is completed.

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