Tribe backs road work on Deep Branch

By: Brandon Tester - Staff writer
Grady Hunt

PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council approved on Thursday a resolution to support improvement projects on Deep Branch Road.

The projects’ overall goal is to make the road safer for drivers, said Grady Hunt, a state Board of Transportation member and attorney for the Public Schools of Robeson County. He presented information about the initiatives to the council before a vote was taken.

“That corridor (Deep Branch) for several years now has had the Department of Transportation’s attention,” Hunt said.

Hunt discussed two previous improvement projects on Deep Branch Road. The first was a widening project in 2011 that was intended to reduce accidents resulting from lane departure, but Hunt said it was unsuccessful. The second project involved the implementation of a four-way stop at Deep Branch and Chicken roads in 2014. Hunt said that change reduced accidents at the location by 60 percent.

Hunt, who leads the county’s Vision Zero initiative aimed at reducing traffic deaths in Robeson County, then introduced projects that have been conceptualized but not yet funded. One calls for the installation of a roundabout at N.C. 711 and Deep Branch Road.

“Like the four-way stops, anywhere you slow traffic down, you have an impact on decreasing crashes,” Hunt said.

Another idea that was discussed was the installation of flashing lights near schools to alert drivers when school zone speed limits apply. Hunt said Union Elementary School had a problem with motorist speeding until the lights were put in place.

“It’s not by accident that we’re the first county in the state to have a Vision Zero program,” Hunt said.

Robeson County is the deadliest county in North Carolina for fatal crashes per registered vehicle, he said.

Councilman Al Locklear asked if the department was considering renaming Andrew Jackson Highway, which is a stretch of U.S. 74, and asked why emissions tests are required in Robeson County but not in other areas around the state, such as Bladen County.

Naming issues are handled by a special committee within the department, Hunt said. He said he will seek answers to Locklear’s inquiry about the emissions testing.

Before the night’s agenda was approved, several council members expressed concern about the origins of the road resolution and another resolution relating to federal recognition. Some were concerned about the resolutions not being properly drafted before being voted on by their respective committees. The timeliness of the proposals also was mentioned as an issue.

“It’s not the content of the resolutions I’m pointing out,” Jan Lowery said. “I’m pointing out how we do business. We’re setting very bad precedents.”

She joined Janie Oxendine McFarland and Janet Locklear in opposing the resolution. Council Speaker Anita Hammonds Blanks had an excused absence because of illness.

The council members agreed to be more attentive during the resolution-drafting process in the future.

In other business, the council:

— Approved a resolution from the Federal Recognition Committee to establish a program in which volunteers and tribal officials will travel to various Lumbee communities and speak about the importance of federal recognition.

— Approved a resolution brought from the Housing Committee requiring the tribal Housing Department to include the names of all utilized contractors and inspectors in its monthly reports.

Grady Hunt Hunt

Brandon Tester

Staff writer

Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected]

Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected]