Town Manager Cliff Ogburn yesterday outlined a summer weekend traffic “mitigation” plan that would close outlets on cut-through residential roads in Southern Shores and place “local traffic only” barricades at other access points along the roads, but would not include prohibiting the left turn on to South Dogwood Trail from U.S. 158-east or closing South Dogwood Trail to non-local traffic by means of a gate or other control.

The plan, said Mayor Elizabeth Morey, who served as what she called a “referee” during yesterday’s public information meeting on traffic at the Pitts Center, is designed to keep vehicles on U.S. 158 and N.C. Hwy. 12.

Besides closing and limiting access to Southern Shores residential roads on the cut-through routes, the Town would seek to persuade northbound vacationers via mobile road signage and other informational means, including cell-phone apps, that “cars mov[e] through town faster on 12,” the Mayor said.

Ms. Morey opened the meeting, which was live-streamed and is available for viewing on the Town’s You Tube site, by announcing that “We’re not here to solve the traffic problem.” That, she said, would require “a magic wand.” Rather, the Mayor and Mr. Ogburn sought to present well-thought-out “options” for mitigating cut-through traffic, some or all of which may be implemented this summer.

(You may view the meeting videotape at https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores.)

Before doing so, however, the pair first dispensed with what the Town is “not recommending”—the most controversial being a continuation of the left-turn prohibition at the 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection, which has been the chief tool in recent years to reduce cut-through traffic.

“We can’t say [the turn prohibition] has an impact to a magnitude of $40,000 a year,” Mr. Ogburn said in explaining the discontinuation, without explaining how such a cost-benefit calculation would be made.

The Town Manager made no mention of the traffic-count data that the Town has collected on the impacted roads when the left turn prohibition is in effect and when it is not. He and the Mayor both made clear simply that the new plan takes the Town in a different direction with different tactics.

As to gating or otherwise limiting access to South Dogwood Trail to local traffic, Mr. Ogburn said attorneys have advised the Town that it cannot discriminate among motorists using the public street by their destinations and that the Town “must treat all the same.”

When pressed on the legalities, the Town Manager described the question as a matter of constitutional law, but he cited no legal precedent or authority, only “legal advice.”

(To discriminate among motorists on the basis of their origin–for example, by looking at license plates–would be wrong-headed. The road closure would have to be for the purpose of limiting traffic to local traffic only.)

Both the professional traffic consultant whom the Town hired and the citizens’ advisory committee on cut-through traffic recommended gating South Dogwood Trail and permitting only Southern Shores residents and guests to access it on summer weekends.

The road closures and barriers that Mr. Ogburn recommended as options along the South/East Dogwood Trail-to-the-dunes cut-through route are designed to keep northbound motorists on East Dogwood Trail and out of the dunes. Indeed, South Dogwood Trail and East Dogwood Trail would be the only roads into and out of the Southern Shores woods and dunes for all motorists on summer weekends during the peak hours of travel.   

Under the Town’s plan, Hickory Trail would be closed to all traffic at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail, and Sea Oats Trail, Eleventh Avenue, Hillcrest Drive, and Hickory Trail would be closed at their intersections with Hwy. 12 (Duck Road).

During public discussion of the Duck Road intersection closures, Mr. Ogburn acknowledged, in response to resident concern, that traffic flow farther south on Porpoise Run and Dolphin Run, which connect Duck Road with Wax Myrtle Trail, also might need to be blocked.

Mr. Ogburn further proposed closing Ocean Boulevard to all traffic at the Duck Road split near the cell tower to prevent motorists from using the road as a shortcut around Duck Road traffic backups from the split to Hickory Trail.

The “Road Closed/Local Traffic Only” barriers that the Town proposes would be placed at the same seven locations that such barriers were used last summer, only they would be made of more substantial material–Mr. Ogburn’s graphics showed concrete obstructions–and not be as easily circumvented.

The seven locations include the entries to Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail at East Dogwood Trail, as well as entry points farther north along these three principal north-sound roads in the dunes.

Mr. Ogburn indicated that the use of such barricades would be subject to continuing assessment of their effectiveness. In general, the Town Manager, with the support of the Town Council, has shown a willingness to improvise if the need arises. 

Cut-through traffic advisory committee chairperson Tommy Karole yesterday spoke strongly against the Town’s plan, saying it would not work and could open the Town up to liability in the event emergency vehicles are prevented from reaching destinations in Southern Shores in as quick a manner as they would without the closures and barricades.

Mr. Ogburn and Mayor Morey will present the Town’s traffic plan to the Dare County Tourism Board at its meeting tomorrow morning in Manteo. As her comments yesterday made clear, the Mayor has been actively networking with community representatives who can assist Southern Shores with keeping traffic on the thoroughfares, including property managers at rental companies in the Currituck Outer Banks. 

We would characterize the Town’s plan as two-pronged, one prong being the use of physical impediments along the cut-through route to discourage motorists from leaving the thoroughfares, and the other being a public-information campaign to do the same. We may write more about the plan after the Town Council’s May 3 meeting, when it will be formally presented and discussed.

The Council’s agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting has not yet been posted on the Town website.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/27/22 



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