Editorial: Long Overdue For A Town Wide Traffic Study

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 27 March 2019 01:01

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

Carolina Beach, we have a problem. We all need to say it out loud and honestly acknowledge the problem. That problem is: Traffic on Lake Park Blvd. It has increased to the point that it threatens the lives of pedestrians walking and riding bikes.

Our town has, innocently, allowed development to occur over the years without mechanisms in place to examine the impacts of additional traffic. And when a "traffic study" was required for certain projects (in rare cases) it was largely done by firms working for those developers rather than an independent third party.

So here we are. 2019. And traffic in Carolina Beach along Lake Park Blvd has become a huge nightmare and a black mark in terms of a perceived lack of planning on the part of our leaders to control development trends and a lack of willingness to say "NO" to large scale developments that add additional traffic to our already overburdened Lake Park Blvd.

The Town was notified by the North Carolina Department of Transportation years ago that Lake Park Blvd was a concern in terms of capacity and congestion.

Every time the Council has considered a new commercial development along that major thoroughfare over the past decade or more, they have questioned the impact to traffic congestion, but only on a case-by-case basis. What's needed is an overall plan for the entire length of Lake Park Blvd. Not just data provided by the very people proposing to build commercial developments.

If the Carolina Beach Town Council doesn't reign in development along Lake Park Blvd with additional controls that promote lower density development, there will come a time in the not so distant future when motorists will find it so frustrating to traverse that road that they will venture to other areas of the County rather than "Busy Carolina Beach". Or worse, they won't  be deterred and they'll continue to pour in and congestion will increase.

And for those that do still brave the floods of traffic jams, there will be an increase in accidents where people may die due to automobile collisions.

This isn't a new revelation, it's been creeping up on us slowing but surely for years.

Exactly like the old analogy  of the Frog in a pot. Put him in boiling water and he'll jump out. Put him cold water and slowly raise the temperature and he'll boil before he knows what happened.

That's Lake Park Blvd in Carolina Beach. It's been a slow - albeit uncontrolled - pot of increasingly hotter water, but here we are - vehicles not stopping at crosswalks and in the most recent horrible set of circumstances, an infant was killed when a motorist hit the infant and a grand mother when turning at an intersection on Lake Park Blvd.

Now consider that at the same intersection, in the future a major commercial redevelopment will take place potentially adding a substantial number of vehicle trips within that immediate area. That will further drive up the possibility for future heartbreaking traffic-pedestrian accidents.

The only solution is to put the brakes on immediately through an official vote of Council until the Town's Zoning ordinance can be amended to prevent development in the interim until the Town leaders can vote on a more controlled plan for growth with an eye on pedestrian safety. Only then can the Town get back to growing it's commercial base with a focus on capacity and safety.

As growth continues in our County with thousands of new residential units being built, it's time to take a serious look at conducting a professional traffic study.

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