12/22/19: CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC COMMITTEE MOVES FORWARD WITH NO-LEFT-TURN OPTION

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Traffic backs up on Sea Oats Trail last summer near its intersection with Duck Road.

The citizens’ Exploratory Committee on Addressing Cut-Through Traffic focused at its Dec. 16 meeting on implementing a no-left-turn at the U.S. Hwy. 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection on weekends this summer. The no-left turn solution to the heavy cut-through traffic on the town’s residential roads, chairperson Tommy Karole said, drew consensus support at the public forum that the committee held in November.

About 20 people attended last week’s meeting, including every member of the Town Council except Mayor Tom Bennett. Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey and Councilman Matt Neal are the committee’s Council sponsors.

The committee has six homeowner members, including Mr. Karole. The others are Linda Lauby of High Dune Loop; Jim Monroe of Ocean Boulevard; Bill Timberlane of South Dogwood Trail; David Watson of Hickory Trail; and Victoria Green of Hillcrest Drive.

The discussion among the committee and the public was wide-ranging and familiar to those who have participated in previous brainstorming sessions about the cut-through traffic problem. It focused on the how-to of preventing east-bound motorists on Hwy. 158 from turning left on to South Dogwood Trail and what effects that deterrence would have on the traffic flow elsewhere in town.

The group debated whether the left turn on to Juniper Trail from Hwy. 158 also should be blocked and whether north-bound motorists should be prevented from turning left on to Porpoise Run and Dolphin Run off of N.C. Hwy. 12 (Duck Road) and, if so, how. Those who supported preventing diversion on to the latter streets suggested blocking their entrances with barrels or other barriers—effectively dead-ending them—or making the roads one-way during the times of the heaviest weekend traffic flow.

The group also recognized that Google and WAZE, two GPS navigation services that direct motorists off of the thoroughfare and on to South Dogwood Trail, would have to be brought on board. This may take a Town Code ordinance, Mr. Karole said.

There seemed to be consensus among attendees, including the Town Council members, for a test of the no-left-turn plan next summer. The simplest way to run it, Councilman Neal said, would be to block only the turn on to South Dogwood Trail and none of the other jump-off streets, including Juniper. The fallout from the no-left-turn could be measured in terms of the traffic burden—vehicle counting would occur—on other residential streets. The Town could then make revisions.

Mr. Karole made clear to The Beacon that his committee is not single-shooting on a longer test run of the no-left-turn option that was implemented successfully June 23-24, 2018. He said his committee intends to present two or three permanent solutions to the cut-through traffic problem to the Town Council for it to consider. While he is willing to work on designing a test and calculating its costs, he is committed to achieving a permanent solution.

Mr. Karole expects to talk and/or meet soon with representatives of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, Town Police Chief David Kole, Town Fire Chief Ed Limbacher, and Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett about implementation of the no-left-turn. The two Town Council co-sponsors will be involved in those discussions.

Ms. Morey said she had met with Chief Kole, and he wished to convey the message: “I will be as supportive as I can.”

Ms. Morey also mentioned that Chief Kole has had an unfilled position for some time, and that hiring someone for this position might be a factor in how supportive he can be.

MID-CURRITUCK COUNTY BRIDGE

Homeowner Doug Boulter brought up the proposed Mid-Currituck County Bridge during the discussion about the no-left-turn option, provoking a lively response. Some people are cynical; others are hopeful.

Regardless of one’s outlook, however, the bridge is years away. Its construction alone is expected to take two years. No one expressed a desire to delay taking action now to improve summer traffic conditions in town.

According to the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, the bridge is “in development” and the targeted start date for construction is spring 2022. It is designed as a 7-mile-long, two-lane toll road that would traverse the Currituck Sound, connecting Aydlett, in mainland Currituck County, to Corolla on the northern Outer Banks.

Earlier this year the Federal Highway Administration approved the $500 million bridge.

See https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/mid-currituck-bridge/Pages/default.aspx

Local residents, hunters, and fishermen have sued N.C. DOT, claiming the bridge, and the traffic that crosses it, would bring substantial harm to an environmentally sensitive area and various wildlife habitats. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the plainitiffs in this litigation.

See https://www.southernenvironment.org/cases-and-projects/mid-currituck-bridge-nc

The SSCA Boat Club’s next breakfast GAM will feature an update on the Mid-Currituck Bridge Project by Rodger Rochelle, chief engineer of Innovation Delivery for the N.C. Turnpike Authority, and Jennifer Harris, senior project manager at HNTB Corp.

The event will be held Jan. 9, at 8:30 a.m., at the Duck Woods Country Club, and is open only to SSCA and Boat Club members. If you would like to attend, please RSVP George Berry at georgeobx@gmail.com. The cost is $8.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/22/19

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