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.





  • Dave Hoppe

    Someday the powers to be with NC DOT and the town of Southern Shores will wake up. One day they will realize it’s easier to raise the bridge than it is to lower the water. The Town of Southern Shores is the worst traffic bottleneck in our community. Every other town has at least four lanes of roads so the traffic can travel thru their towns, every town, and county (Currituck) except Southern Shores. Every other town and the landowners their have had to give up property for road widening, every town except the “special” town and the “special” landowners of Southern Shores……what could possibly be the problem…..?

    Tuesday, Jun 8 @ 6:32 pm
  • WindyBill

    So Shores should be thanked for their efforts to welcome OBX tourists provided they stay the hell out of their neighborhood. (HEY you kids, stay off my Lawn!!) At least they are putting their tax money into their efforts.

    Tuesday, Jun 8 @ 7:44 pm
  • B Morris

    Traffic has always been an issue getting on the island. It should never take hours to get over the bridge. I think it’s time vacationers boycott the island until something is done.

    Tuesday, Jun 8 @ 9:24 pm
  • Bud

    This type of tourism is crushing us, it’s destructive. Twenty five years ago it was healthy, the type of person was pleasant and welcomed, fishermen, surfers and beach folk. Now look at the demographic.
    It’s sad to see the ruin becoming of this area.

    Tuesday, Jun 8 @ 9:36 pm
  • Myrtle beach

    Agreed b Morris. Please do not come. We do not want or need you

    Tuesday, Jun 8 @ 11:35 pm
  • Nick

    What about folks that happen to have vacation rentals just down the street from Kitty Hawk Elementary prior to the right turn onto E. Dogwood Trail?

    Also, the northern Outer Banks isn’t an island – Corolla to Nags Head. It’s technically a spit or peninsula. Only Pea Island and the rest south are islands.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 6:45 am
  • AR-4567

    All is needed is a turning lane along NC 12 thru southern shores to duck..oh wait they fought that years ago. Maybe DOT could fix some of the drainage issues in the process in southern shores. It just takes one left turn to back it up….Dave is on target!

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 6:47 am
  • Spoonyrae

    Turn lane the length of NC 12 will go a long way towards traffic relief

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 6:52 am
  • Bud

    Yes B Morris, a boycott would be wonderful! Hopefully it would last a few seasons at least, we are in dire need of respite and healing.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 7:23 am
  • Sosh

    Hoppe, with respect, as a long time resident of sosh and a one time employee in Duck – the bottleneck is the town of duck. Continuous pedestrian crossing and turning vehicles to businesses in the village creates constant congestion. Once through the village it opens up. Funneling 4 lanes from Sosh to Duck would do nothing. We are not all rich elitist in Sosh just year round residents who love the OBX and try adapt to summer traffic like all other residents. We get it. Nothing is more aggravating that having an ambulance attending to the emergency of a spouse and cut through traffic driving through ones front yard to get “get around”.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 8:34 am
  • Travis

    Seems like a lot of folderol over nothing. Couple hours every weekend where traffic is snarled up? Given that “traffic” is literally carrying the lifeblood of this community’s economy, one would think a slightly more tolerant attitude would be in order.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 9:56 am
  • Dylan

    If traffic is only restricted from making a left onto S. Dogwood, it doesn’t stop the problem. Tourists will soon discover an easy way around that…..I will not explain any further so the trolls will at least have to hit a couple of buttons on any traffic/navigation app.
    But you locals know what I mean.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 10:45 am
  • aaron

    The problem is that everyone GPS systems and google maps tells you to take that road. Last year we sat in line and watched car after car do a U turn and go back and take that road. The problem is and always will be Duck. The traffic just cant get through quick enough and continues to back up. Until Duck figures out a way to get people trough their 2 miles of town, nothing will help

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 12:40 pm
  • Miguel

    I have observed the traffic problems through Southern Shores during my 16 years as a Duck resident. Here’s my two cents:
    1. Tourism fuels our economy, so to suggest that tourists use other locations instead is a non-starter and frankly, silly.
    2. In the current economy, the Mid-Currituck Bridge will probably never get funded or built.
    3. The cost of widening NC 12 from 158 through Duck or even further to alleviate traffic congestion that only occurs on 16 Saturdays and 16 Sundays a year is also too prohibitively expensive to be a realistic solution.
    4. To suggestions about a gated town: The residents of Southern Shores have little choice but to continue to deal with visitors who use GPS to shave travel time by cutting through their town. They own their properties but not the streets of Southern Shores on which everyone with a driver’s license has permission to travel.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 1:00 pm
  • voidless1

    Dam, Southern hospitality seems to be decreasing,……….. for some reason.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 4:18 pm
  • Frank Zappa

    Sadly, most tourists will probably try to go up Juniper Tr. even though that won’t solve any time. Tourists behavior has become worse as every year passes. I completely understand we are in a tourist driven economy but that doesn’t mean folks that live here year round should have to put up with all the BS that comes with it. Things can change but they won’t.
    Too much development and planning for Tourists only and not enough for folks who live and work on the OBX has pretty much destroyed the area. Greed on behalf of county and town officials has changed the whole area to a point where we will never get it back. My family aren’t native but we’ve been here since the 1970s living year round. I recently sold the family home and property as I was the last one left in my family alive. I have fully moved as of last 2 months and so glad I got out before this years Invasion of Tourists. Yes the area relies on the weekly visitors but it seems like their behavior gets worse every year. The county doesn’t care and OBX Tourism commercials continue all over. I find it funny how they show traffic in the big cities it says BOX then changes to OBX with a pristine empty beach…haha what a joke! The area has become trashed by some, not all, of these rude and obnoxious visitors here during the IN season. Tragically, it seems the IN season is expanding. I wish those natives and locals who stay much luck. My decision was to GTFO. I couldn’t stand it any longer to watch the area decline due to poor planning and lack of care for year round residents and workers. I now have a pretty nice spread with some left over to reestablish myself in the Western part of the State. For those fed up don’t be afraid to relocate if you want to. Life is short. It was a fairly easy process for me and I hope it is for you to relocate.
    No offense to those who decide to stay…To Each Their Own as the saying goes. I’m so glad I left recently and will visit friends on the OBX during the OFF SEASON ONLY if there is an off season left in the future. Take care fellow year round Beach Bums! I mean that term in a good way!!

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 5:44 pm
  • hightider

    No point in even commenting on this subject – and it is much more than “a couple of hours snarl every weekend.” In 2012 I was in Eliz City and renovating a home in Aydlett and the Caratoke was backed up for hours all the way from the VA line. What about the yearlong residents in Carova? If they have an emergency, they need a fast boat or a friend with a helicopter. Those of us who love our pets don’t have the option of calling 911 and airflighting a beloved family member to the vet. God help those who have a personal medical emergency. But my comment is why does the Voice not publish news about the Corolla wild herd? 3 or 4 times in the last month, I have read current articles on incidents with the herd in Florida newspapers, but not a mention here.

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 5:51 pm
  • Janice Booth

    I have been coming to the Outer Banks since 1977. I have lived on Roanoke Island for 6 years. I know the greed that has caused overdevelopment. People now come to Roanoke Island as a respite from the beach and they are moving here as more houses get built. I have seen this in other areas before. The very things they came here for they destroy. They want all the amenities of cities in this Oasis. They like how friendly the locals are but many are not friendly.
    Tourists come who have destroyed their own beaches and now seek greener pastures. We did not learn from this. Yes we need the tourist dollars but the more tourists who come the more trashy buildings are built and McMansions arise to draw more people. Greed can be an unending cycle. I don’t know what the future holds.

    Thursday, Jun 10 @ 9:51 am
  • Siobhan

    To B Morris, Bud and Myrtle Beach

    Relocate or stop complaining

    Thursday, Jun 10 @ 3:00 pm
  • hightider

    The place for a “no left turn lane” should be on the Caratoke Highway at the Wright Memorial Bridge. Go to Myrtle Beach or Florida.

    Thursday, Jun 10 @ 7:53 pm