Memo-05-14-2019-Item-14

From:    James A. Reese, Chief of Police, Emerald Isle Police Department

To:          Randy Martin, Interim Town Manager, Town of Emerald Isle

Re:        Traffic Study and Recommendations for Coast Guard Road / Reed Drive - (Summary & Suggested Motions) (Ordinance Memo - Potential Ordinance Amendment)

I am submitting this memorandum in response to a recent request to the Board of Commissioners from resident and business owner Ronnie Watson.  At the April 2019 town council meeting, Mr. Watson requested the Board of Commissioners consider implementing traffic calming measures in the area of Coast Guard Road and Reed Drive in order to address what he views as public safety concerns.  The primary complaint expressed in both of the areas of concern identified by Mr. Watson is that the presence of golf carts, pedestrians and bicyclists combined with the volume of traffic and current speed limits in such a congested area, poses a danger to the public and measures should be taken to reduce the speed of traffic in these areas. 

At the request of the Board of Commissioners, I conducted a study of the two areas identified by Mr. Watson and evaluated the available data relevant to his concerns.  The purpose of this study was to:

  1. Evaluate the areas identified in this study to determine if there are any specific public safety hazards related to traffic flow/management.
  2. Identify possible options for traffic calming measures that would mitigate or eliminate any public safety concerns identified in the study.
  3. Provide recommendations to the Board of Commissioners for specific traffic calming measures that could be implemented to address any concerns identified in the study.

Specific descriptions of each of the areas identified by Mr. Watson have been detailed in the results of the study below.  As part of the study, I began by reviewing the department’s Traffic Accident Crash Reports for both of these areas.  In order to provide relevant comparisons, I conducted both a five-year look back and a ten year look back in traffic crash data. Additionally, traffic volume studies were conducted in each of the identified areas to provide daily vehicle volume information.  Traffic speed information was also collected to provide an “average speed” in each area for consideration.  In order to present the data in terms relevant to each area, I have separated the two areas identified by Mr. Watson into categories titled “Coast Guard Road Data” and “Reed Drive Data”.  The results are as follows:

Coast Guard Road Data:

  1. The target area identified and evaluated for this portion of the study is the section of Coast Guard Road that begins at Emerald Drive (NC58) and runs southwest along Coast Guard Road to the intersection of Osprey Ridge Drive / Deer Horn Drive. The area studied consists of a total of 1,350 linear feet of roadway.  The first 320 feet of roadway heading southwest from Emerald Drive consists of 6 lanes of traffic divided by a concrete island. Also located within that first 320 feet are the entrances to several businesses including the Valero Gas Station, Emerald Isle Wine Market, Watson Matthews Real Estate, Bell Cove Village Shopping Center (containing 8-10 businesses) and the Holiday Trav-L-Park Resort Office Complex.  Additionally, Reed Drive and a crosswalk are located within this first 320 feet.   At Reed Drive, there is a transition from 6 lanes of traffic into 4 lanes of traffic, converging at the location where the crosswalk is located, with a refuge island in the center of the roadway.  This crosswalk is heavily trafficked by visitors staying in the resort as a means of getting to the Bell Cove Shopping Center which contains both shops and restaurants.  This crosswalk/intersection is also a common crossing used by golf carts that are going to the shops and restaurants located in the Bell Cove Village Shopping Center.  Currently, there is no signage in place to alert drivers to the presence of this crosswalk and the street markings for this crosswalk are not highly visible.  As you continue along Coast Guard Road the roadway transitions to a 2 lane road and at 400 feet from the crosswalk you arrive at the entrance/exit to Pebble Beach Condominium Complex on the south side of Coast Guard Road, and the entrance/exit for Bell Cove Village Shopping Center and Bell Cove Subdivision located on the north side of Coast Guard Road.  These entrance/exit points are located in the middle of a blind curve with limited visibility for those exiting from Bell Cove Blvd, where the visibility at this location is 159 feet (the stopping distance for a vehicle traveling 35MPH on a wet surface is 200 feet).  As you continue another 630 feet, you arrive at the intersection of Coast Guard Road and Osprey Ridge Dr / Deer Horn Dr.  It should be noted that this particular roadway is the only means of entrance or egress for at least 12 subdivisions and residential developments located along the Coast Guard Road corridor.
  2. The current posted speed limit for this area is 35 MPH.   The average recorded vehicle speed recorded over a 3-day period (04/19/2019 – 04/21/2019) for this study was 19.28 MPH with 50 percent of vehicles traveling at an average of 19.93 MPH and 35 percent of vehicles traveling at an average of 26.51 MPH.
  3. The vehicle count conducted for this area over a 3-day period (04/19/2019 – 04/21/2019) resulted in an average daily volume of 4,577 vehicles.
  4. Looking back 5 years, from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2019, there have been a total of 48 motor vehicle crashes reported along the entire length of Coast Guard Road. Of the 48 crashes reported, 21 occurred inside the target area being evaluated by this study.  This equates to 44% of all motor vehicle crashes reported on Coast Guard Road occurring in the target area. Comparatively, in the previous five year period, from April 1, 2009 to April 1, 2014, there were a total of 60 motor vehicle crashes reported along the entire length of Coast Guard Road with only 10 of those crashes (17%) occurring inside the target area.  Comparing the two periods evaluated would indicate that while there has been a 20% decrease in the number of motor vehicle crashes reported on Coast Guard Road in the past five years, there has been a corresponding 110% increase in the number crashes occurring in the target area during that same period.
  5. Based on the data reviewed, it is my opinion that there are public safety concerns related to vehicle and pedestrian traffic that could be addressed in this area.

Reed Drive Data:

  1. The target area identified and evaluated for this portion of the study is the section of Reed Drive that runs west to east between Coast Guard Road and Islander Drive.  The area studied consists of a total of 1300 linear feet of roadway, with two lanes of travel for the entire length studied.  Within this 1300 linear feet is the presence of the Valero Gas Station, Holiday Trav-L-Park Resort facilities (office, pool, resort entrance, maintenance building, etc.), an Arcade, Fun World Go-Cart Track and the entrance/exit to the Queens Court Condominium complex.  Additionally, there are three crosswalks located in this area which have an extremely high volume of pedestrian, bicycle and golf cart traffic as a result of the proximity of the crosswalks in relation to the layout of the Holiday Trav-L-Park Resort facilities.  Currently there is no signage in place to alert drivers of the presence of these crosswalks, however there are road markings that are visible.
  2. The current posted speed limit for this area is 25 MPH.  The average vehicle speed recorded over a 5-day period (04/12/2019 – 04/17/2019) for this study was 16.62 MPH with 50 percent of vehicles traveling at an average of 15.9 MPH and 35 percent of vehicles traveling at an average of 21.21 MPH.
  3.  The vehicle count conducted for this area over a 5 day period (04/12/2019 – 04/17/2019) resulted in an average daily volume of 1,988 vehicles.
  4. Looking back 5 years, from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2019, there have been a total of 11 motor vehicle crashes reported along the entire length of Reed Drive.  Of the 11 crashes reported, 4 occurred inside the area being evaluated by this study.  This equates to 36% of all motor vehicle crashes reported on Reed Drive occurring inside the target area. Comparatively, in the previous five year period, from April 1, 2009 to April 1, 2014, there were a total of 9 motor vehicle crashes reported along the entire length of Reed Drive with only 1 of those (11%) occurring inside the area being evaluated by this study.  Comparing the two periods evaluated would indicate that there has been a 22% increase in the number of motor vehicle crashes reported on Reed Drive in the past five years, with a corresponding 300% increase in the number crashes occurring in the target area during that same period.
  5. Based on the data reviewed, it is my opinion that there are public safety concerns related to vehicle and pedestrian traffic that could be addressed in this area.

Based on a review of the data compiled in this study, it is my opinion that there are public safety hazards present in both of the areas identified by Mr. Watson.  While the study revealed that the majority of vehicles appear to be traveling below the current posted speed limits in both areas, the results also show significant increases in the number of motor vehicle crashes being reported in both areas over the last five years.  It should be noted that the traffic volume averages for both of these locations were taken during the off-season and could be expected to double or triple during the busy tourist season.  Additionally, current and proposed development in the Islander Drive and Reed Drive areas is likely to result in an increase in traffic volume, particularly along the Reed Drive corridor.  It would be wise to consider what impact those developments will have on the current traffic issues identified in this area. While there is no definitive data that indicates the current speed limits in these areas are responsible for the increase in reported motor vehicle crashes, the volume of traffic recorded in these areas gives serious thought to what reasonable speed limits should be given the geographical layout.  What is definitive from this study is that in both areas evaluated, 65 to 85 percent of the vehicles in these areas are already traveling below current posted speed limits which should indicate that public concerns about lowering the speed limits in these areas should be minimal.  Furthermore, I believe that the concerns expressed by Mr. Watson and identified in this study can be managed through a combination of implementing traffic calming measures, the posting of proper signage, public education campaigns and targeted enforcement efforts.  As a result, I am submitting the following options for your consideration and review:

Coast Guard Road Options:

Option #1:  Speed Limit reduction.

Reduce the speed limit along Coast Guard Road from Emerald Drive (NC58) to a location approximately 200 feet west of Osprey Ridge Drive from the current 35 MPH speed limit to 25 MPH.  By reducing the speed limit in this area, we should effectively slow traffic in what is already a highly congested and heavily traveled roadway.  Driver awareness and reaction times will be increased, while required stopping/braking distances will be reduced.  Additionally, impact speeds and injury risks should be minimized in the event of an accident.    If you consider this option, I would recommend the following approach:

  1. For traffic traveling east on Coast Guard Road, the posting of “reduced speed ahead” signs approximately 400 feet west of the Osprey Ridge Drive intersection, with a 25 MPH speed limit sign being posted 200 feet west of the Osprey Ridge Drive intersection. 
  2. For traffic traveling west on Coast Guard Road, the installation of a 25MPH speed limit sign 120 feet west of the intersection of Emerald Drive (NC58), with an additional 25 MPH speed limit sign posted just east of Bell Cove Blvd.
  3. Public education can be accomplished through public safety announcements in the newspaper, newsletters, digital media platforms and targeted enforcement efforts where drivers are stopped and warned by the police department during the initial implementation phase of the changes.

Option #2: Crosswalk Improvements

I would encourage the installation of solar powered RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon) crosswalk system with flashing lights at the Reed Drive and Coast Guard Road crosswalk, and that the roadway markings for the crosswalk be repainted to be more noticeable to vehicles traveling on the roadway.  Making this crosswalk more visible to the public should increase protections for pedestrians, cyclist and golf carts while also slowing traffic in response to the highly visible amber lights when flashing.

  1. Crosswalk markers should be posted at the Reed Drive crosswalk on Coast Guard Rd with markers placed on the south and north side of the roadway.  I would recommend crosswalk markers that are equipped with RRFB solar powered lights to attract the attention of drivers.  The markers being recommended would be similar to those being installed along Hwy 58 by NCDOT. 
  2. Alternatively, you could post normal crosswalk signage at this location.  If that option is chosen, I would recommend the posting of signage on the north and south sides of the crosswalk with additional signage being posted in the island between the two travel lanes.  It is my opinion that while this is a less expensive option, it will also be less visible and less impactful.
  3. This crosswalk is not ADA compliant because the island in the center of the roadway does not meet the DOT ramp requirements.  This concrete area would need to be taken up and made level with the surface of the roadway to meet standards.
  4. Current signage in the island is incorrect and needs to be changed.  The yellow and black striped sign should be angled towards the direction traffic is supposed to flow.  One of the signs would need to be replaced.
  5. The plantings (Palm trees) in this island are confusing to motorist and should be replaced with small plantings that allow drivers to see through the island. (I would also recommend this for the island at the intersection of Coast Guard Road and NC58).
  6. Public education can be accomplished through proper signage and targeted enforcement efforts where drivers are stopped and warned by the police department during the initial implementation phase of the changes.

Option #3: Install a 4-way stop at Coast Guard Rd and Osprey Ridge/Deer Horn Drive.

By installing a 4-way stop at this intersection, the desired reduction in speed through the target area will be accomplished as the speed of traffic will be interrupted along what is currently a long uninterrupted roadway.  This particular intersection would be the most effective, and least disruptive, location to install this traffic calming measure as it is at the western boundary of the target area and in close enough proximity to achieve the desired effect throughout the target area.  This is a more substantial and disruptive traffic calming measure that has the potential to have an undesirable effect on the flow of traffic in the target area, particularly during peak season when traffic volumes are higher along Coast Guard Rd.  Additionally, while this would most likely address concerns with eastbound traffic in this area, there would be minimal to no impact for westbound traffic since the speed limit is not being reduced for vehicles turning off of Emerald Drive. Therefore, while this is an option for you to consider, it is my opinion that this measure would need to be implemented in conjunction with the measures recommended in Option #1 and #2 in order to achieve the desired results.  If you consider this option, I would recommend the following approach:

  1. The posting of “4 - way stop ahead” signs just east of Bell Cove Blvd for traffic flowing west and a minimum of 200 feet west of Deer Horn Drive for traffic flowing east.
  2. The posting of stop signs with flags for both the westbound and eastbound travel lanes on Coast Guard Road.  The stop signs for Deer Horn Dr and Osprey Ridge Dr. are already in place.  Stop bars should be painted on the roadway at the intersection to aid in alerting drivers to the new traffic control device.
  3. Public education should be accomplished through public safety announcements in the newspaper, newsletters, digital media platforms and targeted enforcement efforts where drivers are stopped and warned by the police department during the initial phase of the change.

It is my opinion that the options outlined above would be the most effective method of addressing identified public safety concerns for this area while also having the least disruptive impact on the current flow of traffic.  Additionally, the measures recommended here are the least costly and simplest methods to implement quickly.  It is my recommendation that you consider implementing Options #1 and #2 as an initial step and then evaluate the impact those measures have on traffic in the area prior to considering Option #3 or other more substantive measures.

Reed Drive Options:

Option #1: Speed limit reduction

Reduce the speed limit along Reed Drive from Coast Guard Road to Islander Drive from the current 25 MPH speed limit to 20 MPH.  By reducing the speed limit in this area, traffic will be slowed in a highly congested area filled with vehicles, campers, golf carts, pedestrians and bicyclists.  Half of the area (600ft.) studied along this roadway is primarily used by guests staying at the Holiday Trav-L-Park Resort who are traveling between the campground and the resort facilities such as the pool, arcade, go cart track and the Valero Gas station.  If you consider this option, I would recommend the following approach:

  1. For traffic traveling east on Reed Drive from Coast Guard Rd., I would recommend the posting of a speed limit sign with flags within 50ft. of the intersection with Coast Guard Rd., and a second sign 175 feet west of the entrance to Queens Court.
  2. For traffic traveling west on Reed Drive from Islander Dr. I would recommend the posting of a speed limit sign with flags 125 feet west of the intersection with Islander Dr., and a second sign 175 feet west of the entrance to Queens Court.
  3. Public education can be accomplished through public safety announcements in the newspaper, newsletters, digital media platforms and targeted enforcement efforts where drivers are stopped and warned by the police department during the initial phase of the change.

Option #2: Crosswalk Improvements

I would encourage the installation of and additional standard crosswalk sign at the two crosswalks located at the entrance to the Holiday Trav-L-Park Resort (currently there is only one on one side of the street at each crosswalk).  By making this crosswalk more visible to the public, it should increase protections for pedestrians, cyclist and golf carts in that area and make the crosswalk meet national DOT standards. If you consider this option, I would recommend the following approach:

  1. A standard crosswalk sign should be installed on the north side of Reed Drive for traffic flowing west for the crosswalk on the east side of the entrance.
  2. A standard crosswalk signs should be installed on the south side of Reed Drive for traffic flowing east for the crosswalk on the west side of the entrance.
  3. Public education can be accomplished through proper signage and targeted enforcement efforts where drivers are stopped and warned by the police department during the initial implementation phase of the changes.

Option #3: Install Speed Bumps/Humps

You can consider installing speed bumps/humps at selected locations along Reed Drive.  Speed bumps/humps are designed to naturally reduce the speed of traffic by forcing drivers to slow to navigate them safely and avoid damage to their vehicle.  The bumps /humps which protrude anywhere from 2 to 6 inches above the road are designed to jolt vehicles traveling faster than 20 mph.  Studies have shown that speed bumps/humps typically reduce the speed of traffic an average of 8 - 15 miles per hour, depending on the size of the bump/hump, in areas where they have been used.   This is a relatively inexpensive method of calming traffic in an area with the cost of these devices averaging less than $1000.00 each and installation can be completed by the town’s public works department.  Additionally, this measure traditionally has the effect of reducing traffic volumes on roads where they are installed since ‘cut thru’ traffic typically seeks alternative routes to avoid encountering these devices.  If you consider this option, I would recommend the following approach:

  1. Installation of a high visibility 2” speed bump/hump at 70 feet west of the entrance to the Holiday Trav-L-Park campground, with a “speed bump ahead” warning sign 120 feet west of the entrance for the eastbound travel lane. 
  2. Installation of a high visibility 2” speed bump/hump at 25 feet east of the entrance to the Holiday Trav-L-Park campground, with a “speed bump ahead” warning sign 75 feet east of the entrance for the westbound travel lane. 
  3. Public education can be accomplished through proper signage, public safety announcements in the newspaper, newsletters, and digital media platforms.

It is my opinion that the options outlined above would be the most effective methods of addressing concerns found on Reed Drive as a result of this study.  Option#1 and #2 are the least intrusive methods of achieving the desired impact the current flow of traffic in the area and could quickly be implemented as an initial step to address concerns.   Current speeds recorded in the area show that traffic is currently averaging 21.21 MPH in this area with a posted speed limit of 25 MPH, therefore a 5 MPH reduction is being recommended to increase the impact on speed reduction.  Option #3 is a more significant traffic calming measure that would definitely have the desired impact on the goals we are trying to achieve without lowering the speed limit; however, speed bumps/humps have been shown to have an undesirable effect on emergency response times for first responders and can also reduce the lifespan of emergency vehicles and equipment. 

Note: North Carolina State Building Code 503.4.1, passed in 2018, regulates the installation of speed bumps/humps on any street or roadway used by emergency responders for access. Therefore, the installation of these devices in this area would require the approval of the Town fire code enforcement official (Fire Chief) prior to installation.  I have spoken with Chief Walker and he would prefer other measures be attempted prior to consideration of this option. 

While there are additional traffic calming measures that can be considered in both of these areas, most are significantly more costly and would take time to engineer, construct and implement.  The options that have been provided for your consideration are the most cost effective and easiest to implement, while still achieving the desired effect of addressing most of the concerns that have been expressed regarding public safety.  My recommendation overall is that you consider implementing Options #1 and #2 in both areas as a first step.  Once implemented, we can monitor and evaluate the impact those measures are having and determine if additional traffic calming measures are warranted.  Obviously, you may also determine based on the information provided that no changes to the current traffic control measures in the areas studied are warranted, in which case the department will continue to address complaints received from the public through routine patrol and targeted traffic enforcement efforts.  I am available to discuss the information contained in this study or answer any questions you may have at your convenience.