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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Road Diet Correction Cost Could Have Been Avoided

Editorial: Road Diet Correction Cost Could Have Been Avoided

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The project to return Lake Park Blvd in downtown Carolina Beach back to a four-lane traffic pattern should serve as a lesson regarding cautious planning to avoid wasting taxpayers dollars.
One simple step the Town did not take could have prevented the approximate $200,000 expense of having to resurface Lake Park Blvd. (See report on page 1-A)
They implemented a new traffic pattern without testing it for a full summer season to find out if it would actually work to the benefit of the community and busy tourism traffic during the spring, summer and fall months.  Instead, the powers that be at the time - some of which have moved on from office - chose not to listen to the public nor previous traffic studies and test the "Road Diet" prior to installing permanent traffic lines.
The people in power at the time were current Council members Lonnie Lashley and Bob Lewis, and former Council members Pat Efird, Dan Wilcox and former Mayor Joel Macon.
Later on all of them agreed to reverse that plan. Although Wilcox remained a supporter of the original plan. In the beginning, once those lines were installed, they became permanent since it's not just paint, but a strip that is thermally bonded into the road surface. Temporary painted lines for a full season would have allowed ample time to test the pattern.
And after those permanent lines were installed, they claimed it could cost upwards of $500,000 to go back, spent thousands of dollars on consultants to justify the new Road Diet and spent two summers tweaking traffic light timing with no success while residents and business owners expressed strong opposition to the new pattern because, quite frankly, it ticked off tourists and locals.
People were seriously upset having to sit in traffic for upwards of 40 minutes to drive on Lake Park Blvd from Kure Beach to Carolina Beach. A trip that previously took only minutes to complete.
Ultimately after months of public opposition and calls to return to four lanes, the Town decided it was time to return to a four-lane pattern that had served this Town for many decades. This part of the story is important because it serves as a lesson for local governments. Just because you hire a consulting firm to hold workshops and deliver artists renderings of the future, doesn't mean you should run right out and permanently commit to something without at least testing it first.
That's entirely true for traffic patterns. Whenever possible, test it first.
If not, you'll go down in history as the administration that could have avoided spending a couple hundred of thousands of dollars to correct a bad decision. And just to cut off those waiting for traffic jams with four-lanes later this summer, that argument will not hold water. Even if traffic backs up with four lanes, two lanes was not an improvement. It was a step backward. The next step is to explore other options that will bring an actual measurable improvement and in any case, test it first! That's the intelligent thing to do.