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Last Wednesday, I backed out of my driveway on Oak Island and drove toward N.C. 211 to make the daily commute to Shallotte.
As I crossed the Oak Island Bridge, my phone rang. It was a colleague calling to warn me about an accident on N.C. 211. A tanker had overturned spilling its contents over the roadway.
Because Hazmat teams were already hard at work cleaning it up, I only expected a slight delay.
I saw cars turning around, but assumed that they were the impatient people who couldn’t wait 10 minutes. When it was my turn to approach the roadblock, a man asked me where I was planning to go. “I’m heading to Shallotte,” I said.
“To 17?” he asked.
“Yes,” I told him.
“No, you’re not. The road’s closed. You’ll just have to go back home and wait,” he said.
“The road’s what?” I asked.
“Closed,” he said. “You’ll have to wait.”
So, I waited. I waited until 1 p.m. to start my journey again. This time I had to take my son to the doctor. I left my house on Oak Island a little before 1 p.m.
It wasn’t long before I had passed St. James and Midway Road. The accident was somewhere between the two roads that morning and I saw no signs of it.
Just as that thought crossed my mind, I saw skid marks on the road. At first I assumed they were from the accident earlier that morning—then I saw the two cars blocking the roadway ahead.
This accident had occurred between Virginia Williamson Elementary and Clemmons Road. It involved two cars and seemed to be a head-on collision. As the ambulances came screaming around my SUV, I tried to absorb what had just happened—two accidents in one day.
A sheriff’s deputy approached and began talking to cars behind me. The first car in the line of traffic, I began to get alarmed when I saw the fire truck hooking up a hose. As I began to back up the deputy approached my window.
“Are you heading to 17?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. I knew where he was heading, but I wanted to give him the chance to tell me.
“You’ll have to go around ma’am. You can go back to Midway and follow that to 17,” he said.
”Okay. Thank you,” I said.
“This is the second one today,” he told me.
“I know. I’ve turned around twice,” I said.
Heading to U.S. 17 via Midway reminded me of drinking from one of those loop-de-loop straws when you’re really thirsty. I had somewhere I needed to be but instead of just going, I was loop-de-looping around the countryside.
I hoped the truck driver and all motorists involved were okay. Driving that stretch of road everyday, I have learned how dangerous it can be. Drivers need to be alert and ready to react to deer, debris and other motorists.
The lack of extra lanes make turning and passing dangerous. I have witnessed many near-collisions as a vehicles attempt an unsafe pass, only to swerve back into the original lane of travel to avoid a collision.
I can’t imagine closing all of N.C. 211. How do people get in and out of their developments? How do people from Oak Island and Southport get to Shallotte? How do people from Shallotte get to Southport or Oak Island?
Many Brunswick County residents rely on N.C. 211 everyday. So why is the widening project only beginning in 2013? The proposed widening project to begin in 2013 will only expand N.C. 211 from Midway to N.C. 87. This leaves a large portion of the road, from Midway to Bolton, untouched.
The area excluded from the proposed widening project includes Virginia Williamson Elementary School, the Lockwood Folly River Bridge and several developments including Winding River and RiverSea.
All are high-traffic areas and would benefit from extra lanes to assist with traffic flow.
We need to solve the problem at hand—too many vehicles and not enough road. While many people expect the new Oak Island bridge to alleviate many of our traffic issues, it could compound it.
The bridge will intersect with N.C. 211 at Midway Road, already a populated travel area. If more people begin to travel this route, it may increase the number of accidents.
Widening the highway is the only solution that will solve N.C. 211’s problems. I urge the Brunswick County commissioners to consult the N.C. Department of Transportation and start working on the widening project now—not five years from now.
RENEE SLOAN is a staff writer and page designer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.