Southern Shores again tries to tame tourist traffic

By on June 8, 2021

‘No Left Turn’ weekends begin this Saturday

(File photo: Kip Tabb)

On the heels of a Memorial Day weekend that reportedly brought unprecedented levels traffic to neighborhood streets, the Southern Shores Town Council on June 1 approved a budget amendment that would institute “No Left Turn” weekends two weeks earlier than previously scheduled.

The first of those weekends begins this weekend — on June 12— and will run through August 15, with mobile message boards, barriers and a police presence prohibiting no left turns from eastbound U.S. 158 onto South Dogwood Trail each Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The turn arrow at the traffic signal will also remain red during those times.

The weekend events are an attempt to deter vacationers from accessing South Dogwood Trail to use residential streets as a cut-thru to avoid traffic backups along U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 as they head to vacation destinations in Duck and Corolla.

And in the event that they don’t do enough to mitigate traffic congestion, the “No Left Turn” weekends may prove to be the first in a series of traffic control measures employed by the town.

The budget amendment approved by Council appropriates $7,600 to provide funding for the two additional “no left turn” weeks — on June 12 and 13, as well as June 19 and 20. Town Manager Cliff Ogburn told Council the cost per weekend for the contracted services that provide the event is $3,800 per weekend.

Mobile message boards have always been at the U.S. 158-South Dogwood Trail turn during these weekends, Ogburn noted, adding this year, another one will be situated on the Currituck side of the Wright Memorial Bridge. “We are going try to put one at the Currituck side of the bridge to give people plenty of notice that they can’t turn left,” he said.

Also on June 1, the Southern Shores Council gave Ogburn the authority to erect several seasonal local-traffic-only signs at East Dogwood Trail and Hickory, Hillcrest, Sea Oats and Wax Myrtle if the no left turn weekends prove not to be effective enough at preventing vacationers from using residential streets as a short cut to their destinations.

“We kicked this idea around of closing those four streets early on as a next step,” said Mayor Tom Bennett during the meeting. “First, we start with our no left turn, then if that doesn’t work, we put the barricades up…and we just hope we get seventy-five percent cooperation or better.”

Councilman Jim Conners voiced concern over whether “local traffic only” signs at the four roads connecting to East Dogwood Trail would only lead to other clogged streets.

“Keep in mind what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about putting up barriers to great number of streets here,” he said. “Is that what we want to do? That’s just a question we need to answer because we can cut off traffic from going down Sea Oats, but it’s not doing anything for the other streets.”

For his part, Councilman Leo Holland asserted: “We’ve got to try something. I’ve been involved in these conversations and we keep kicking and kicking [it down the road], and we’ve got to do something. It may work, it may not. And if it doesn’t, let’s fine tune it.”

The municipality began implementing the “no left turn” weekends back in 2018 to experiment with ways to deter the traffic that uses the cut-thru that begins on South Dogwood Trail and takes travelers through residential neighborhoods before putting them on N.C. 12. The municipality also conducted traffic counts during those weekends to determine what roads travelers were using as an alternative.

Last year, a town-appointed cut-thru traffic committee was formed, and the town brought in J.M. Teague Engineering & Planning to do a traffic analysis.  The cut-thru committee met this March and made the recommendations for the strategic temporary road closures. The committee, as well as the consultant, also recommended an automated gate on South Dogwood Trail that would permit only property owners through.

Ogburn told the Voice, however, that the current council did not have an appetite for such a gate. Instead, it prefers to take calculated steps such as the “no left turn” weekends and then “local traffic only” blockades. Such a progressive process, he noted, will allow the town to evaluate the effects each step has on mitigating the congestion.

“There’s some concern that if we prohibit or close this road, then it just jams up this road,” Ogburn explained. He said that these mitigation measures would likely become permanent features during the busy summer season.

And then he mentioned the one long-awaited project, still a long way from fruition, that many in Southern Shores see as the ultimate answer to their clogged summer neighborhoods.

“I think we’re heading in that direction until the [mid-Currituck] bridge gets built – if the bridge gets built,” he said.





  • OhioSnicker

    Without tourists, property taxes would increase fivefold, just to maintain the necessary services.
    I get it; it sucks. They need to build another bridge. In the meantime, 95% of the country doesn’t have to deal with this. Move there.

    Friday, Jun 11 @ 10:04 pm
  • Jim

    Well that was a complete failure! As someone who lives on one of the “shortcut” streets, it is ridiculous that we cannot leave our homes from Friday evening until Sunday night. And if we do leave, to you know live our lives, we cannot get back to our homes for hours after a simple trip to the grocery store.

    Sunday, Jun 13 @ 9:51 am
  • Dylan

    So, how did that “no left turn” thing work out on Saturday? Not so well, you say? Those orange cones really don’t stop tourists from doing whatever the hell they want.
    Just park a patrol car there with a mannequin inside. Better that what was done.

    Sunday, Jun 13 @ 12:59 pm
  • Frank Moore

    Legally how can you shut off access to a taxpayer maintained street just because some people don’t want other people driving on my street ? This has always seemed like a legal challenge to me. Just a thought !

    Monday, Jun 14 @ 6:30 am
  • sandflea

    This is a more accurate headline:
    Southern Shores again tries unsuccessfully to tame tourist traffic

    Monday, Jun 14 @ 10:30 am
  • joe Duke

    My question is where does the money come from to maintain the streets in Southern Shores? Is it from State Taxes ? County Taxes? or maybe Federal taxes? if it does.. and I pay all of them…Than that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.. Mr Ogburn can not close the streets just because some little cry babies don’t like traffic on there streets.. works kind of like this.. if you don’t like the noise of airplanes.. don’t live near an airport.. If you don’t like trains don’t live near the train tracks.. If you don’t like traffic than MOVE.. You are not any more important than the rest of us.. any good lawyers out there that want to take this on? sounds like a slam dunk to me

    Tuesday, Jun 15 @ 12:51 am
  • Dylan

    To you wanna-be lawyers: If public safety can be shown to be at risk by this traffic, then the town of SS can close the circus.

    Tuesday, Jun 15 @ 1:38 pm
  • Frank Moore

    Dylan you obviously live in Southern Shores but by your logic CLOSE ALL THE ROADS IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY because all roads can be shown to be a risk by any traffic.

    Tuesday, Jun 15 @ 8:21 pm
  • Tri-Village

    For the tourists that say if you don’t like it leave . I have an idea, come here with respect for the area. Y’all are dillusional. Put yourself in our shoes for once. How would you fell if there were thousands of vehicles driving through your neighborhood ? I live in Rodanthe. Have my entire life. There are no back roads here. I’m very accustomed to the summer traffic. I think what bothers a lot of residents is the lack of respect for our home. The beaches are full of litter , the houses are destroyed, and most visitors act like we should be treating them like royalty. Its your vacation but this is our home. Practice a little empathy. The places I have traveled you do not act the way most tourists do here. Go to El Salvador and act the way most of you do and see what happens

    Tuesday, Jun 15 @ 8:40 pm