The long-delayed Smithfield Crossings road project will soon permanently change the traffic pattern on East Market Street near Interstate 95.
Town leaders will meet Monday to find out exactly when the change will occur, said Paul Embler, Smithfield’s planning director. It could happen as soon as Tuesday or as late as the next week, he said. Check smithfieldherald.com for updates.
The traffic pattern will change at the intersection of Industrial Park Drive and East Market Street, near Exit 95 on I-95. Cars on Market Street going east from Smithfield toward the highway will no longer be able to turn left onto Industrial Park Drive. Instead, they will have to turn left earlier at the stoplight between Hess and Checkers. This path will take them along a new road that goes behind Ruby Tuesday and CiCi’s Pizza and in between CiCi’s Pizza and Texas Steakhouse & Saloon. That new road will eventually flow into a traffic circle on Industrial Park once construction is finished.
This also changes the path for drivers coming from Carolina Premium Outlets toward I-95. They will no longer be able to turn onto East Market Street from Industrial Park Drive. Instead, they will have to make a right earlier onto the new road and loop around, exiting onto East Market Street at the stoplight in between Hess and Checkers.
This change will allow southbound I-95 traffic to exit directly onto Industrial Park Drive near the traffic circle.
“When all the construction is completed, you won’t even have a stoplight until you get to Venture Drive,” Embler said. “So you’ll have a good little run into the outlet mall, so it should speed up traffic tremendously.”
Drivers headed from Smithfield toward the I-95 exit, and vice versa, will be able to continue on East Market Street as normal, without taking the new road. Embler said the town will place signs in the area to explain the changes.
The road project has been slowed by the discovery of utility lines that had to be moved. Town officials hope to finish the project by the end of December, and business owners are looking forward to the end of construction and the new traffic pattern.
“The sooner they can get it done the better, the much better for me, no matter what it does,” said Ken Perry, general manager of Texas Steakhouse & Saloon. The restaurant’s only entrance is on Equity Drive, just off of Industrial Park Drive.
Perry said he is looking forward to the new traffic pattern since it is supposed to alleviate congestion. “I’m excited,” he said. “I hope it’s going to grow some of the intersection more.”
But the ongoing construction has caused problems for the steakhouse. Perry said the parking lot has flooded three times, and construction crews have shut down the road to the business multiple times.
Zaxby’s general manager Kelly Smith said business is down $500 to $1,000 a week this year compared to last year.
Smith said all of the traffic cones and construction make it seem like the roads are closed. “It’s making us appear unreachable basically, and so that’s definitely impacted sales and just made us not make as much money as we usually make,” she said.
Smith is ready for the road project to wrap up. “It’s about time because it’s been a long, ongoing project,” she said. “It’s affected us quite a bit in sales, and I’m just ready to have everything be normal again.”
Smith said she doesn’t think the new traffic pattern will hurt business. “I believe it will be a positive,” she said.
With the road going behind the restaurants, “we’ll be their first option if they’re coming to the outlets because we’re going to be the first thing they pass other than Checkers,” Smith said.
Ruby Tuesday’s general manager said construction hasn’t affected business, and he’s excited for the new traffic pattern. “I think it will benefit us more than what it does now,” he said. “I’d just like to see the traffic be able to actually enter our location versus passing it by.”
CiCi’s Pizza assistant manager Randy Hill said the changing traffic pattern doesn’t worry him. The restaurant has had better sales this year, he said.