CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Just one year after putting North Lake Park Blvd. on a diet, Carolina Beach Town Council has decided to fatten the road because of traffic issues.
Most town leaders, residents and visitors agree two lanes is not enough for the busy weekend traffic that sometimes means about 30,000 vehicles a day.
“I see them pounding on that windshield, on that steering wheel,” business owner and resident Joe Coen said of the frustrated drivers stuck in traffic on the north end of Pleasure Island. “It has turned out to be a bad choice. We can’t all predict the future. We tried it. It didn’t work. Go back to the way that it used to be, because that worked.”
Carolina Beach resident Sharrill Jennings agrees.
“I think it’s good that when you recognize that something is not working, you try to do something about it,” she said during a meeting with Town Council and a task force that’s trying to figure out how to reverse the traffic problem.
Some residents are worried about what the current pattern would mean during a disaster.
“Hopefully we’ll never have a hurricane to deal with, but if we ever had to evacuate the beach, it would certainly be an issue then, too,” Gary Doetsch said.
Town Manager Tim Owens said the diet was part of a plan to give downtown Carolina Beach more of a “Main Street” feel, with wide sidewalks, trees, benches and bike lanes. The full plan was not put into effect, and Owens says doing just the lane decrease was a smart idea.
“The good thing is we didn’t spend $10, $15, $20 million doing those improvements and then have to go back,” Owens said. “So it’s just paint and asphalt at this point.”
Now, the question is, how to divvy up the space between the curbs.
“I don’t think that necessarily means that we want to do away with some of the other aspects of the plan, which were to widen the sidewalks, include bike paths and things of that nature that make the town more pedestrian-friendly,” Mayor Joel Macon said.
Macon says he thinks the pedestrian-friendly elements are important, and some residents think rearranging parking is important, too.
“Parallel parking versus angular parking, that’s an issue,” Coen said. “If there’s a big truck parked to the south of you, and you’re trying to get out north of that truck, you can’t see what’s coming. That includes electric carts, skateboarders, pedestrians, whoever.”
Once the town decides on a plan, the $200,000 it’s estimated to cost will come from the tourism funds not tax dollars.
The Town Council invites the public to attend a public hearing August 23.