All residential streets in Southern Shores that have been blocked with “Local Traffic Only” barricades in anticipation of thousands of northbound vehicles driving through neighborhoods will be open this weekend, the Town announced in its biweekly newsletter today.
“With this weekend’s traffic expected to be the peak of the summer,” the announcement says, “we have determined that it is best to remove barricades on all Town streets. This will provide as many outlets as possible and expedite traffic throughout Southern Shores.”
The Town first placed orange, water-filled barricades and regulatory “Road Closed Local Traffic Only” signs at intersections along the South Dogwood Trail-East Dogwood Trail-Hickory Trail cut-through route, on Juniper Trail, and on Ocean Boulevard over the Memorial Day weekend. The barricades blocked the northbound lanes at multiple intersections, including those on East Dogwood Trail and Hickory Trail with Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail. The barricades were placed at the same 10 locations over the June 4-5 weekend.
While residential roads experienced heavy traffic on both of those weekends, conditions on the cut-through route became “chaotic,” Town Manager Cliff Ogburn told the Town Council at a recent meeting, when the Town experimented with closing Hickory Trail to all traffic at the Hickory Trail-East Dogwood Trail. This closure elicited much “anger and resentment toward the town,” Mr. Ogburn said, and “police had a lot of calls from upset residents.” (See The Beacon, 6/23/22, for background.)
The closure of Hickory Trail is referenced in the Town’s announcement today, which further reads:
“When addressing traffic issues in one part of our community, the Town did not intend to create new or worse problems in other parts of town. In some cases, efforts to ease cut-through traffic have created conditions worse than those addressed. The blocking of Hickory Trail at East Dogwood is an example of the effect being worse than the cause. Traffic being backed up to the cemetery on South Dogwood is not an outcome we can allow. Once East Dogwood Trail and Hickory Trail were opened for traffic, we still experienced lengthy backups on South Dogwood. The barricades at several intersections that are intended to discourage non-local traffic from cutting through contributed to the back-ups. We are experiencing different results from these barricades this year than last.”
There is no question that northbound motorists brazenly ignored the barricades, driving around them as they traversed the Southern Shores woods and dunes to reconnect with Hwy. 12 (Duck Road) at its intersections with Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, Eleventh Avenue, and Sea Oats Trail. The same was true on Ocean Boulevard. Vacationers have learned that the “Local Traffic Only” signs are not backed up by law enforcement.
While we knew that our suggestion recently to have police cite motorists for violations at the end of the roads they illegally enter would be labor-intensive and would not be met with favor by Police Chief David Kole, we did not expect the Town to pull the plug altogether on traffic mitigation on the roads themselves. We are very disappointed. (See The Beacon, 6/26/22)
We contacted Tommy Karole, the chairperson of the former Southern Shores Citizens’ Committee to Study Cut-Through Traffic, for his comment on the Town’s action. The cut-through traffic committee recommended a gating system to relieve weekend congestion.
“If the Town Council had taken the time to listen to what the cut-through traffic committee found in its research,” Mr. Karole told The Beacon, “they wouldn’t have wasted the time and money over the last two years that they have.” Mr. Karole further said that he predicted the conditions that have occurred on weekends since Memorial Day.
According to The Beacon’s reporting, the Town Council did not take up the cut-through traffic in a public meeting after Sept. 7, 2021 until the Town held a public-information forum during which Mayor Elizabeth Morey’s traffic mitigation plan for the summer was announced.
Today’s Town newsletter announcement concludes with the statement that “We will continue to alert visitors that they will experience less congestion if they remain on U.S. 158 and N.C. 12.” It refers readers to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpQ3-tKSa3Y for the “latest message.” (One slogan, delivered on the videotape by the voice-over of a young child: “Don’t cut through, stay on N.C. one-two.”)
TOWN COUNCIL MEETS NEXT TUESDAY, JULY 5
The Town Council will meet for its regular monthly meeting next Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center. The meeting agenda, which was posted on the Town website today, shows that the Town Manager will give an update on traffic and on the street improvement project during his report. You may access the agenda here: https://southernshores-nc.municodemeetings.com.
MAYOR’S CHAT JULY 13
Mayor Morey will hold an informal Mayor’s Chat on Wed., July 13, at 4 p.m., in the Pitts Center.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/30/22