Based on reports The Beacon received from Southern Shores residents, by email and by Facebook post, and my own observations, the Town’s no-left-turn trial this past weekend at the U.S. Hwy. 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection gave both homeowners and northbound motorists a break from the stress and aggravation of traffic backups. It created a safer and more peaceful environment.
At no time during the two-day, 8-a.m.-to-6 p.m. prohibition on turning left from Hwy. 158 to South Dogwood Trail did traffic back up on any of the town’s residential roads, including those in Chicahauk, residents reported. Typical of comments from homeowners at the north end of Sea Oats Trail, which is the last entry for “cut-through” motorists to rejoin the traffic flow on NC 12, was this Facebook post from Lori Harrell Worthington:
“This has been a wonderful weekend with no backups in our neighborhood!”
Other Sea Oats Trail homeowners were flabbergasted. Said Mary Ann Gouzie Hurd, who posted on Facebook throughout the weekend: We’ve had “no traffic” all day, each day. This is “unheard of.” More than that, “This is weird.”
Lest there be any concern that Chicahauk was bearing the brunt of the no-left-turn trial, John Booth, who lives on Gravey Pond Lane in Chicahauk, reported “light traffic on Juniper/Trinitie” on both days.
Susan Dineen, who also lives in Chicahauk, agreed. On Saturday, Ms. Dineen wrote: “I watched the Juniper/Trinitie traffic flow all day, and it was very light, which is typical for any day here.”
(For other comments, see https://www.facebook.com/southernshoresbeacon.)
Pictured at top is a photo of the 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection that a Beacon reader downloaded from the N.C. Dept. of Transportation website at 12:47 p.m. Saturday. (A larger reproduction of the image appears on The Beacon’s Facebook page.)
The depicted conditions represent the worst congestion that occurred during the weekend trial, and it reportedly did not extend very far on the Wright Memorial Bridge. The congestion also did not persist throughout the day, as both Hwy. 158 and NC 12 opened up.
According to Sunday reports, traffic moved at speed on both Hwy. 158 and NC 12 for most of that day, if not all day. I drove through the 158-South Dogwood Trail at 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and observed traffic moving at speed, with no slowdowns. At 3:30, I drove north on South Dogwood Trail and then turned right on East Dogwood Trail, taking it to NC 12, where I joined the traffic heading north. I was pleased and shocked to be in this traffic moving at the speed limit. I stayed with it until I turned into the dunes on Sea Oats Trail; I could see a clear road ahead on NC 12.
Some readers observed that the traffic volume seemed lighter this past weekend than it usually is on a summertime weekend. Tommy Karole, owner of the Paper Canoe Restaurant in north Duck and a Southern Shores resident, said his employees who crossed the Wright Memorial Bridge reported “light traffic.” Perhaps. Or it may simply have seemed that way because the Hwy. 158 traffic flow was faster. The Town’s traffic counters should provide some insight into the number of vehicles that traveled on NC 12 and elsewhere.
The Beacon eagerly awaits an official report from TOSS Police Chief David Kole about the number of traffic citations issued during the no-left-turn trial, especially for making an illegal left turn; the number, location, and nature of any allegedly related traffic collisions that may have occurred; and the number of vehicles that crossed the Town’s counters.
I received several emails from excited residents who were thrilled to see Southern Shores police officers, “with their blue lights on,” pull out from the road shoulder, where they were parked, observing the intersection, and chase motorists who made illegal turns. The Beacon thanks all of the officers who endured the muggy heat to implement “zero tolerance.”
The OBX Locals Facebook page posted a report that the Southern Shores police issued 26 citations for an illegal turn on Saturday. This figure is unsubstantiated and should not be considered factual, absent police confirmation.
I would like to conclude this post by thanking Town Councilmen Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald, who listened to residents, who had been complaining for years about the cut-through traffic, and lobbied for a public meeting with representatives from the N.C. Dept. of Transportation. When these representatives made it clear at the Town Council’s Sept. 5, 2018 meeting that DOT would support the Town in any actions it wanted to try to curb the cut-through traffic, Councilmen Newberry and McDonald pushed for the directive that enabled the no-left-turn trial to occur.
The June 23-24 trial results are a meaningful start to a dialogue about traffic in Southern Shores, but they emanate from only one trial over one weekend. Such limited evidence is hardly enough to enable a full and fair evaluation of the effects that a left-turn prohibition at 158-South Dogwood Trail would have on traffic flow through Southern Shores—both on the residential streets and on NC 12. We would like to see another trial occur this summer in July, which is our peak vacation month, or August.
If you agree, please let the Mayor and the Town Council know: Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let them know what you think.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, June 25, 2018