By Outer Banks Voice on June 25, 2018
Reaction has been mixed to last weekend’s test of no left turns from westbound U.S. 158 onto Dogwood Trail at Kitty Hawk Elementary School.
The Town of Southern Shores tested the effectiveness of not allowing traffic coming from the Wright Memorial Bridge to turn onto South Dogwood Trail on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Plans were to conduct the experiment this past weekend only, and there were no other prohibitions at the intersection, so traffic coming from The Woods Road and westbound U.S. 158 was still able to access South Dogwood Trail as normal.
“As was fully expected with the turn lane blocked and enforced, a significant amount of vehicle traffic was diverted away from South Dogwood Trail during the exercise,” said Southern Shores Town Manager Peter Rascoe.
Some residents commenting on The Outer Banks Voice Facebook page, and elsewhere on social media, said they noticed a difference on Saturday, with fewer vehicles on Dogwood.
One resident commented on the Town of Southern Shores Facebook page that, “even a 50 to 80 percent reduction in cut through traffic would be a big plus.”
But others noted that with lower volume, more vehicles were speeding on the narrow neighborhood street popular with those trying to get north of Kitty Hawk while traffic is stalled on U.S. 158 and N.C. 12, especially those who use traffic-mapping apps such as Waze.
And those who live on other Southern Shores roadways that connect U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 said there was a lot more traffic than a typical Saturday.
Kitty Hawk Police Chief Joel Johnson reported there were two separate motor vehicle accidents at or near the intersection over the weekend. One person reported a minor injury, and was treated at the scene.
North Croatan Highway is in Kitty Hawk, and the town line with Southern Shores is just off the westbound shoulder.
Barrels were placed in the center turn lane to keep out traffic, with large signs and a variable message board also alerting motorists of the ban.
“The supervisor on duty reported to me that the intersection was confusing to numerous motorists, and several accidents almost occurred due to the operators confusion,” Johnson said.
“We have no reports that the over-marked and adequately-signed intersection was confusing,” Rascoe said in response to those claims. “We only heard from vehicle operators that it certainly was not in sync with their GPS apps.”
As anticipated, there were some drivers that found a way to get around the ban. Some turned right on The Woods Road, then turned around at driveways a short distance away and went back to U.S. 158 to cross.
Others traveled farther down North Croatan Highway and made a U-turn and then turned right on Dogwood.
Rascoe emphasized that the main point of the exercise was to divert the eastbound U.S. 158 traffic as much as possible, while acknowledging some traffic would still turn around and enter South Dogwood legally from other directions.
He also reiterated that there were never any plans to close Dogwood Trail to traffic during the experiment.
“Data collected on vehicle counts around Southern Shores on Saturday and Sunday during the exercise is still being complied for evaluation, in the hopes we can determine where the vehicle traffic that was diverted from South Dogwood Trail actually went during the exercise times,” Rascoe said.
Rascoe said Southern Shores Police Chief David Kole is working on that report and would make it available to the public when it is completed.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation and Town of Kitty Hawk concurred with the experiment when it was approved by the Southern Shores Town Council on May 1.
A report by Southern Shores staff last August detailed a number of options for consideration, including a seasonal no left turn at South Dogwood Trail or blocking left turns at 12 intersections along U.S. 158 and N.C. 12.
Another option, which was the recommendation of a citizens committee formed in 2015, was to block roads and/or bridges all along Dogwood Trail.
A fourth selection from the staff was to create a “gated community” and access restrictions from U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 onto town streets.