State to lower speed limit on rural road

Transportation officials are granting the wishes of an area resident who voiced safety concerns recently about his rural Catawba County road.

Gerald Bennett, a resident of 4434 Grace Church Road in western Catawba County, told county commissioners in late January that he was concerned and fed up with the large number of drivers who travel at high speeds down the narrow, curvy road. He told commissioners that high speeds on the 55 mph road have led to at least eight serious accidents in recent years, asking the board to push state officials into lowering the speed limit and addressing other safety concerns along the roadway.

Bennett’s address prompted Commissioner Barbara Beatty to send a letter to Mike Holder, 12th district engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

Now, less than three weeks later and after a NCDOT investigation, officials are recommending the speed limit be changed.

“We have completed our investigation and are recommending a 45 mph speed zone on S.R. 2030 (Grace Church Road) from Plateau Road to Hickory-Lincolnton Highway,” according to a NCDOT letter from Holder.

The recommendation must be approved by the regional and state traffic engineer before it can formally go into effect, according to information provided by the state. Once that’s done, the appropriate signage will be installed.

Bennett is thrilled.

“I am very pleased,” he said. “Just as soon as they get them 45 mph signs up, I’ll be as happy as can be.”

Bennett recently showed The O-N-E firsthand how speeders fly down the windy, country road. He said the road turns into the “Daytona 500” when students at nearby Fred T. Foard High School are released from school on weekdays.

“That’s my third mailbox,” Bennett said. “Two of them have been destroyed by wrecks. I don’t want to be putting up a fourth.”

It looks like Bennett won’t have to worry as much now, as officials anticipate the changed speed limit will take effect soon.

“I was very pleased that they listened to the citizen and addressed the concerns,” Beatty said. “Sometimes it takes longer and sometimes our resolutions aren’t as good, but I’m sure Mr. Bennett is happy with the resolution and it will be a safer area.”

At Bennett’s request, the NCDOT is also recommending adding double arrow signs on Grace Church Road across from Blackburn School Road and across from Wesley Chapel Road, and extra “stop ahead” signage on approaches to the roads.

Bennett also requested a guard rail along Grace Church Road, a request the NCDOT is investigating further, according to NCDOT’s letter.

All in all, Bennett is pleased.

“I think Commissioner Beatty really stuck behind her word, which is a lot more than I can say for anybody else. I do appreciate that,” Bennett said. “It will cut down the number of accidents and make the road safer.”