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I’ve gotten a lot of reader feedback regarding recent columns about the Smith Avenue extension project. Some people are taking it in stride, offering comical solutions for traffic hassles or jokes to pass along to NCDOT. Others are generally frustrated and can’t figure out how to get where they are going.
The most common concern from people who have called and sent letters is they can’t get to and from local businesses they used to frequent.
Here are some of the things you can no longer do because of changes to the traffic pattern on Smith Avenue and Main Street.
•You cannot go to the main branch of BB&T and then go to any of the stores in Shallotte Crossing. You can make a right out of the back entrance and end up on the new road, make another right onto Main Street and then head down to the entrance at Chili’s, if you’re not too dizzy after doing that loop. Or you can exit onto Main Street and go into the shopping center at the Chili’s entrance.
What’s unfortunate (and poor planning) is if there wasn’t a big concrete divider at the rear entrance, you could easily hang a left and visit everything from one side of the shopping center to the other, without ever having to get out into Main Street traffic.
Who thought preventing that was a good idea?
•You cannot exit left out of Walgreens onto the Smith Avenue side toward U.S. 17, nor can you take a left out of Walgreens on Main Street to go downtown in Shallotte.
Recently I wanted to dash down to McDonald’s after leaving the store. A concrete barrier prevents a left turn onto Main Street from that entrance, and there is a big no left turn sign onto Smith Avenue from the other side. Want to go downtown? You’ll either need to turn right out of the parking lot and loop all the way around to the Shallotte Commons entrance back by Subway, or follow the new road back around to N.C. 130 or make a right onto Main Street followed by a left onto Smith Avenue, then drive past another concrete barrier before you can find a place to turn around, go back down Smith Avenue and then right on Main Street.
I didn’t really need French fries that badly.
And if I want to get back to work on Smith Avenue after going to Walgreens, forget about it. I value my life and my car too much.
•If you go to the shopping center with Big Lots and Rite Aide and would like to get on Smith Avenue to head down to U.S. 17, the only way you can get there is to go across two lanes of oncoming Main Street traffic, to make a left onto Main and then left at the light onto Smith.
Want to go down the new portion of the road to head into Shallotte Crossing by Subway? Hang on and hold your breath. You’ll have to cross two lanes of oncoming and fast-moving traffic heading the other way.
Want to shop at Beach’s Thrift Store that used to be on N.C. 130? Just ignore the road-closed signs and consider yourself local traffic so you can get there. The storeowner says business is practically non-existent since the traffic flow changed. Look for a story next week.
To put it in simple terms, this project has made it incredibly difficult to access Shallotte businesses. Customers are frustrated. Business owners are upset; what can now be done?
But as anti-business as this new traffic flow is, the biggest fault may be its failure to do what it was supposed to do—route traffic from the Holden Beach area away from N.C. 130, down Smith Avenue and out onto U.S. 17.
Is traffic from the Holden Beach area using the new road in large numbers? Traveling there any time of day, it’s clear that’s happening. But are as many going on down Smith to U.S. 17? Looking at the backup in the left turn lane onto Main Street and flowing down Main Street to U.S. 17, not likely.
Have you ever tried to turn off Smith Avenue onto U.S. 17 in any direction during daylight hours? Whether you’re turning into traffic or against it, forget about it. You’re going to take your life into your own hands every time you want to turn onto or go across that busy four-lane road.
Seems with all the money, time and effort invested in this project—somebody, anybody—would have included a traffic light at the Smith and U.S. 17 intersection.
THAT would have made sense.
And at least that way, when people are heading out of Shallotte to go shopping elsewhere, they can get there with less frustration than driving in circles around town.