By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on June 16, 2021
Southern Shores to increase police presence, add signage
After motorists used a number of strategies to circumvent the town-instituted “no left-turn” restriction from westbound U.S. 158 onto S. Dogwood Trail last weekend, Southern Shores plans on a few changes this weekend, including increasing the police presence at the intersection.
Motorists coming over the Wright Memorial Bridge bound for vacation destinations to the north in Duck and Corolla have long used Southern Shores neighborhoods as a shortcut to avoiding N.C. 12, resulting in more than a decade of seasonal traffic woes that have become increasingly acute in recent years.
The “no-left-turn” weekends— which began last weekend and will be in effect from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 15 — are an attempt to deter the cut-through traffic that is clogging the municipality’s residential streets. But problems were reported after last week’s effort, with some observers complaining that Southern Shores needs to take more comprehensive measures to tackle the problem.
Reports on social media over the weekend noted that travelers, in an effort to get onto S. Dogwood Trail, were pulling into the newly opened 7-Eleven at U.S. 158 or turning onto The Woods Road to turn around and cross U.S. 158 to head northbound on S. Dogwood Trail.
“Apparently the no left-hand turn on Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores is a joke,” one post read. “No one is there to do anything about it.” Another social media commenter noted that some vehicles were passing the intersection and “making a U-turn smack in the middle of 158, then turning on Dogwood anyway. Someone’s gonna get hurt.”
In a Voice interview, Southern Shores Town Manager Cliff Ogburn noted that in addition to an increased police presence this weekend, it is anticipated that the left-turn traffic signal onto S. Dogwood Trail would be a permanent red light during the restricted hours. Due to difficulties, the North Carolina Department of Transportation was unable to make it a permanent red light last weekend.
Southern Shores Mayor Tom Bennett also told the Voice that there will be additional “Local Only Traffic” signs placed at E. Dogwood and Hickory, Hillcrest, Sea Oats and Wax Myrtle to further discourage cut-through traffic. “We’ll see if it makes any real difference and if it does make a difference, what other problems we generate,” Bennett noted.
As far as the verdict on the first weekend, Bennett said, “I think it worked as I well as I would have expected it to work, because people are just going to follow what Waze tells them to do, or whatever app they happen to be using. “There is no quick fix. We have to try different things and see how we make them work.”
Tommy Karole, who chaired the cut-thru traffic committee that offered recommendations to the Southern Shores Town Council in March, thinks the solution is simple. Those recommendations included the installation of two radio frequency-controlled gates accessed only by residents – one on South Dogwood Trail and the other on Juniper Trail.
“One simple gate,” he asserted. “We’re not blocking off the town of Southern Shores, making it private and all this other nonsense on social media. One simple gate is going to tell people coming across [the bridge] on WAZE that they can’t go through Southern Shores. You can’t make a U turn.”
Karole asserted that the roads in Southern Shores are owned by the town, not the state. “[They are] owned, maintained and paid for by the taxpayer,” he said. “And we have every right to limit traffic.”
“The Town Council in Southern Shores is treating this as if it’s a new problem,” he added. “We experimented with the no left turns last year and it did not work. And now, all of the sudden, it’s become a safety issue, a quality-of-life issue and a property value issue. It’s time for them to get off their hands and stop the traffic.”
Southern Shores resident Ann Sjoerdsma said she witnessed people turning right on The Woods Road on June 12 in order to turn around to get on South Dogwood. She was also in traffic along South Dogwood Trail that came to a dead stop that day. “It was a no-left-turn weekend and it seemed like it was open season,” she said. “It didn’t seem to affect the traffic that much…I was really shocked.”
Sjoerdsma, a longtime town resident who operates The Southern Shores Beacon online site, favors a comprehensive approach to the traffic problems plaguing the town.
“I think there is a lot of frustration by residents and homeowners who have been dealing with it for ten years that the Town Council’s pretty much put its head in the sand and is still not prepared to do what’s necessary to alleviate the cut-through traffic,” she said. “And especially since they had this whole year to at least try something or come up with something different.”
She added that it’s past time that the towns and county came together to develop a plan to address the traffic issues, asserting that, “I really think there needs to be a comprehensive effort involving all those jurisdictions just to keep [the traffic] on the thoroughfare and move them through.”
For his part, Bennett acknowledged the difficulty of the challenge at hand. “We’ve been talking about so many options for so many years,” the mayor noted. “We are concerned and trying to correct the problem. It’s a real tough task.”