Jacksonville Police are aggressively issuing citations to drivers who block major intersections during busy commuter periods along Lejeune Boulevard. Sarah Finch has more.
Motorists in Jacksonville are all too familiar with traffic congestion, especially around Camp Lejeune in the morning and afternoon. And the problem didn’t get any better when the Marine Corp base closed one of their gates on May 27th. Camp Lejeune Public Affairs Director Nat Fahy says they shut down the gate for security reasons, and to free up military personnel to manage other base entrances.
“The Tarawa Terrace 1 gate has been closed permanently. We understand that this represents something of an inconvenience for people who live nearby that gate. What it has done is prompted people to use Tarawa Terrace 2 gate.”
And this is where navigating gets tricky. Traffic is bottlenecking at the intersection of Lejeune and Western Blvd. as people are turn left to enter the base at TT2 gate. Eager to get to their destination, motorists are squeezing through the intersection and blocking traffic even after the stoplight has turned red. This prohibits traffic flow on the eastbound lane of Lejeune Blvd.
The City responded initially by increasing the length of the green light. So far, City Transportation Services Administrator Anthony Prinz says it hasn’t solved the issue.
“From the city’s traffic center, we are monitoring the situation daily. We have made the timing changes that we could make, without impacting the entire corridor, and without flooding the gate with vehicles causing blockages.”
Prinz says the city can’t make additional changes to those signals without causing further delays both upstream and downstream. In order to prevent accidents, and eliminate congestion, Jacksonville Police are stepping in. This week, they kicked off a new initiative to issue traffic citations for drivers who pull out into the middle of the intersection illegally. Lieutenant Sean Magill is Jacksonville Police Department’s Field Operations Supervisor.
“Just because a light is green, doesn’t give you arbitrary right just to go into the intersection, you have to make sure you can go all the way through it.”
According to North Carolina law, motorists can’t enter an intersection unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection to accommodate their vehicle without obstructing other vehicles. Which means, if you pull out into an intersection, make sure you can get across or you may get a ticket.
Lt. Magill says police will monitor the busy intersection for the next two weeks, or until they witness more voluntary compliance. So far, preliminary news releases in the area have worked well to warn people about these changes, and only 2 tickets have been written since June 8th. With the traffic fine and the court costs adding up to $205 dollars, it’s a steep price to pay for a moment of haste. To alleviate congestion and avoid a costly citation, base commuters are being encouraged to use the new Wilson Gate.
“The amount of time that you would wait, sit through one or 2 cycles, to try and make the left turn to get into TT2 gate, you would have more than enough time to drive that 3 quarters of a mile through the Wilson gate and start working your way back to the housing development.”
Lt. Magill says the Wilson Boulevard Gate is open weekdays until 7 PM, and is designed to handle more traffic with less impact on Lejeune Blvd.