Can Southern Shores solve summer traffic?

By on September 19, 2019

‘This goes way beyond inconvenience’

Last summer, Southern Shores experimented with a traffic trial. (Kip Tabb/File photo)

As a citizens advisory committee prepares to make recommendations on how to address the daunting problem of summer cut-thru traffic congestion in the town’s neighborhoods, the Southern Shores Town Council addressed the issue at its Sept. 17 meeting — with some debate over what was to blame and what can be done.

Councilmember Fred Newberry, who serves as an advisor for the town-led advisory group headed up by local resident Tommy Karole, told fellow members at the meeting that he was pushing for the committee to bring recommendations to the council in December. That way, he said, any infrastructure needed could be included in next year’s budget cycle if the council approved the suggested measures.

“I think this goes way beyond inconvenience,” Newberry said in reference to the summertime congestion caused by easttbound drivers turning left from U.S. 158 onto S. Dogwood Trail to minimize travel time to points north. “It’s a safety issue. There’s no doubt about it…The quality of life of those people [affected] is in jeopardy and people are really getting upset. We are going get a plan and we need to take some action.”

The subject of summer vacationers and other drivers using S. Dogwood Trail, Hickory Trail and other adjacent streets as a short cut to bypass vehicular backups along the northern route to Duck and Corolla via U.S. 168 and N.C. 12 has long been a matter of debate and frustration among affected property owners.

It was also the focus of a town traffic experiment one weekend last summer to determine whether prohibiting westbound vehicles from making a left turn onto S. Dogwood Trail would be an effective way to address the issue. The Southern Shores Police Department reported little reduction in traffic volumes during the trial weekend.

This summer, Hickory Trail resident David Watson submitted a petition signed by residents on his street and Red Bay Lane. The petition requested that the town dead end Hickory Trail at its intersection with Hillcrest. Watson later withdrew the petition in an effort to work with the citizens’ committee, which was formed in July.

Addressing council members at meeting on Sept. 10, Karole said the committee plans to hold two public forums on potential traffic solutions – one in October and the other in November.

“The traffic problem is real, and the opinions are many,” Karole told the board during that meeting, asserting that he was working to get a true cross-section of people with varying ideas.

Councilman Gary McDonald argued at this week’s Sept. 17 meeting that the council has dropped the ball on the issue over the years by failing to act on prior committee recommendations and input from public meetings.

“We are aware that is an issue, it’s been before us as long as I’ve been on this council and prior to me being on this council, and we just aren’t doing anything to address it,” he said. “We hear complaints every year…it’s fallen on deaf ears.”

But Council Member Chris Nason argued otherwise, saying, “We did the no left-turn [trial] and it didn’t work, so it isn’t like we didn’t try. This is the hardest problem I think we have as a town, and I’m not sure we are necessarily part of the solution until that [mid-Currituck] bridge gets built. That’s the key piece to this.”

An NCDOT project, the mid-Currituck bridge would include a 1.5-mile bridge stretching over Maple Swamp in Aydlett and a 4.7-mile span across the Currituck Sound leading to Corolla on the Currituck Outer Banks. NCDOT was given the green light this past March by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to move forward with the project. Soon after, however, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a suit challenging the FHA approval on behalf of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and the No Mid-Currituck Bridge citizens’ group.

For his part, Council Member Jim Conners contended that the council needed to wait to hear the recommendations of the new committee. “It’s in the proper place right now,” he asserted. “Sometimes you have to swing twice before you hit the ball…I don’t know what else you want us to do right now.”

In response to McDonald’s claims of inaction by the board, Mayor Tom Bennett said some proposals that have been floated in the past — such as closing the bridges on S. Dogwood Trail or Trinite — while alleviating congestion, would also negatively impact local residents’ daily travel.

“It’s a Catch-22 situation and we have to make compromises and decide what we really want to do,” he said. “No decision is a decision. We’ve beaten that to death, but we are going to look at this again and see if there is a solution that doesn’t force five hundred cars to make a U-turn on U.S. 158 to get back and make a right turn [on S. Dogwood Trail],” concluded Bennett, referring to the 2018 traffic trial.


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  • Windy Bill

    The Mid-Currituck bridge and the result on Currituck beaches is up to the citizens of Currituck County Not Dare County. Dare citizens can support, or not, the decisions of our northern neighbors. Currituck citizens can support, or not, the decisions of their southern neighbors and Please help us with the traffic problems which benefit their citizens with jobs and tax base. Let’s work together to fix this.

    Saturday, Sep 21 @ 3:53 pm
  • Frank Moore

    A public funded and maintained state road cannot be altered just because the traffic which uses it is inconvenient to some people, residents or otherwise ! A road owned totally by the locality could be modified
    by those officials if a real traffic issue existed BUT inconvenience is NOT a real traffic issue. Man up its only 2 or so months a year live with it and be happy that you live in a beautiful location. If you are wondering no I do not live up there I chose another location on the OBX just like you could have done.

    Saturday, Sep 21 @ 4:25 pm
  • Ozzy3

    I hope that mid-Currituck bridge never gets built. It will destroy the eco-system that many wildlife depend on. Deal with it people! It’s only 12 weeks a year. By the way, I do live in Southern Shores.

    Sunday, Sep 22 @ 5:26 pm
  • Bobby Schlegel

    I have property in Southern Shores , Swan Beach and Carova . The bridge is not at all the answer . It could well make it worse . The overdevelopment and over crowding of a poorly planned infrastructure will continue to be a large issue so watch out for what you wish for .
    Limit homes to 6 bedrooms and register amount of bedrooms .
    The Southern Shores need to slow the speed limit to 15 mph add many stop signs and make it slow and difficult during the 10 weeks it’s the worst then reverse it . Also keep the no left turn there and maybe on hickory sea oats hillcrest between the hours of 10 am til 6 pm .

    Tuesday, Sep 24 @ 7:53 pm
  • Bill Schreiner

    Southern Shores Town Council pretends to be worried about traffic, yet they are letting builders put up hotels on Ocean Blvd??? Hard to take these people seriously.

    Monday, Sep 23 @ 1:01 pm