The Town Council and Town Manager Cliff Ogburn had nothing new to say about the cut-through traffic at last evening’s Council meeting except that, as bad as it was last Saturday, according to Mr. Ogburn, it “would have been worse with the [‘Local Traffic Only’] barricades.”
The more barricades that the Town puts up, said Mayor Elizabeth Morey, “the more potential [there is] for public-safety incidents.”
We wonder how the “potential” for public-safety “incidents” compares with the “potential” for public-safety “incidents” caused by the relentless, all-day stream of traffic clogging the roads.
Unfortunately, one cannot prove potential; nor can one prove that road conditions would have been worse had there been barricades. We don’t have a control group of roads to test Mr. Ogburn’s hypothesis. We only have conjecture.
Although traffic was very heavy last Sunday, too, the tepid discussion that Town Council members had focused on Saturday. At its conclusion, both Council and Manager confirmed that the barricades would not be used in the foreseeable future. They see them as a source of tension and strife between residents and vacationers driving through town on residential streets.
Town Council member Mark Batenic did not attend yesterday’s meeting. He also was absent for the June 21 workshop meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal aptly described conditions Saturday on the South Dogwood Trail cut-through route as “horrendous” and referred to the 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. vehicle backup in the dunes as a “parking lot.” He expressed sympathy for residents, but offered no suggestions for traffic mitigation, saying that the volume of traffic through town—on N.C. Hwy. 12 and the cut-through route—is simply too great.
Town Councilwoman Paula Sherlock mentioned emails sent to the Town Council by residents that attest to a strong difference of opinion about the barricades. We wish she had elaborated on this point. Our belief is—and our mail indicates—that residents strongly objected to the closing of Hickory Trail, but not to the barricades on other streets, which inconvenience residents only slightly because they can drive around them.
It was when Hickory Trail was closed that traffic backed up on South Dogwood Trail to the cemetery. Last Saturday, with Hickory Trail open and no other barricades in place, traffic backed up on South Dogwood Trail past the Duck Woods Country Club to the Kitty Hawk Elementary School, Mr. Ogburn said.
The Town Council and Town Manager attributed this backup to the fact that it was a holiday weekend. What will be their reason when it happens this Saturday?
Mr. Neal said that, based on previous traffic data, the weekend traffic flow through Southern Shores will continue to be heavy through July and start to taper off in August.
The Town Manager reported a traffic count of 5069 vehicles on South Dogwood Trail last Saturday, which he compared favorably to a count of 4581 vehicles on the street on July 3, 2021, when the “no left turn” was in effect on U.S. Hwy. 158.
We do not believe it is possible to evaluate the meaning of last year’s count, without knowing what the level of police enforcement of the left-turn prohibition was. A better comparison might have been with Sat., July 4, 2020, when, according to Town traffic data obtained by The Beacon last year, 3249 vehicles traveled on South Dogwood Trail—nearly 2000 fewer than traveled on it last Saturday.
The pandemic 2020 summer season was a boom season for the Outer Banks. We suspect, but cannot say with certainty, that police monitored the illegal left-turning traffic on the July 4th weekend that year. But there also was no 7-Eleven parking lot at the 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection offering vacationers a left-turn work-around.
Mr. Ogburn previously informed The Beacon that the U.S. 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection was lightly monitored in 2021 by Southern Shores police, who issued only 32 citations for its violation all summer. That is an average of 1.78 tickets issued per day that the turn prohibition was in effect.
The Town will continue to put a “strong effort” into “educating” vacationers that they are “better off” staying on U.S. Hwy. 158 and N.C. 12, than driving on the South Dogwood Trail cut-through route, Mr. Ogburn said. The N.C. Dept. of Transportation is assisting the Town by providing road signage that encourages vacationers to stay on the state roads.
POLICE ACTIVITY LAST WEEKEND
In an effort to inform the Town Council and the public about what police were doing over the holiday weekend, Police Chief David Kole ran through the calls and incidents to which the police responded “above and beyond dealing with the traffic.” According to the Chief, they were as follows:
Sat., July 2:
- Three traffic accidents, one on South Dogwood Trail, two on Duck Road
- A larceny call
- Two mutual aid requests, one from Currituck County, which was a “burglary in progress with shots fired” (apparently a resident thought he saw a burglar and fired a gun), and the other from Kitty Hawk
- Request from Kitty Hawk Police Dept. for assistance with an “overdose” at McDonald’s; the Southern Shores officers “brought [the victim] back with Narcan,” Chief Kole said
- 19 traffic stops
- Two motorist assistance calls
- One response to a water rescue
- Two burglar alarms going off
- Two “talk with an officer”
- K9 training
- One traffic hazard (a tree in the road was removed)
Sun., July 3:
- An accident with injuries (a vehicle flipped over near Porpoise Run)
- Two “domestics in progress”
- Two calls about a protest on Ocean Boulevard (no violations cited)
- One “underage drinking on the beach”
- A “mutual aid” from Kitty Hawk for a foot chase; the K9 “was deployed”
- One animal call
- One suspicious vehicle
- One “talk with an officer”
Chief Kole did not detail any of these calls or incidents beyond what we have described above. Although he mentioned the number of traffic stops that occurred on Saturday, he did not do the same with Sunday.
The Chief also reported on service calls “not related to the traffic” that the police handled on Fri., July 1, and Mon., July 4. Monday’s calls featured an eclectic assortment that included:
- One domestic assault
- One verbal assault
- One noise disturbance
- K9 training
- A grass fire near 102 Ocean Blvd. (assist the Fire Dept.)
And one whose resolution elicited an undercurrent of laughter from people attending the meeting:
- Family that was panhandling at the Marketplace
“We moved them to Kitty Hawk,” Chief Kole reported.
Mayor Morey reminded all members of the public that she will host a Mayor’s Chat next Wed., July 13, at 4 p.m. in the Pitts Center.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/6/22