DOT denies Emerald Isle’s funding request to improve traffic

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) — As the summer months approach, traffic will increase along coastal beaches, especially at Emerald Isle. The island is expecting 40,000 visitors this summer.

In an effort to better reduce traffic flow, the town has applied for funding within the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

Some of the town’s suggestions included installing roundabouts at the four signalized intersections.

“The benefit to them is that you don’t ever have to wait for a traffic signal,” said Frank Rush, town manager. “The traffic can continuously flow based on the geometry of the roundabout and the fact that there are no left turns.”

But the request was denied due to other larger projects across the region.

“The factors for scoring range from safety, accessibility, connectivity, to freight usage,” said Bill Kincannon, an engineer with the N.C. DOT’s Division 2 Project Development. “They did not score quite as well as some of the other projects that were being ranked across the division.”

About 30,000 cars travel along N.C. 58 through Emerald Isle each day during the on-season. The island goes from about 4,000 people in the winter months to 40,000 in the summer months.

Either way, residents on the island know how to prepare for tourist season.

“It’s something you have to put up with and understand what you’re going to get involved in when you get on the road,” said Billy George, who has lived in the area for 17 years. “Try to time your leaving and departure of the island when it’s not the busiest time.”

Other suggested improvements included adding additional turn lanes at the intersections and expanding the turn lane down past the visitor’s center to Seaview Drive to help with traffic flow.

Already, plans are in the works to install a roundabout near the new Publix at Mallard Drive and N.C. 58.

While the congestion may be a headache, the town says that the increase in traffic is good for the local economy.

“At the end of the day, we obviously want to keep the traffic flowing as efficiently as we can, but ultimately for a place like Emerald Isle, it’s a good problem to have in the summer,” Rush said. “It’s a desirable place. We want lots of folks to come and have a good time and enjoy it here.”

The town says it maintains an open dialogue with the DOT and will continue to work on getting these improvements made. The planning session for next year’s projects will begin in the summer.

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