SURF CITY—What started as a way to reduce traffic on one neighborhood’s private road has been hailed a success by proponents and condemned by critics. Organizers’ private toll booth raised $800 on Memorial Day that will be used to help maintain the neighborhood road.
According to Jeff and Sue Conerly, members of the Cedar Landing and Creek Estates Road Maintenance Organization (CL/CE RMO), the toll was a result of a neighborhood vote and more than 20 volunteers working together.
Creating a toll
The Cedar Landing and Creek Estates neighborhoods are located on Cedar Avenue near Surf City; Cedar Avenue acts as a shortcut onto Topsail island, but the road is privately maintained by CL/CE RMO.
The amount of non-residents’ vehicles using the road prompted the organization to take the steps to try and limit the amount of through traffic.
Despite the appearance, the end goal is not to keep non-residents out. Rather, Jeff Conerly said he hopes the North Carolina Department of Transportation finally takes control of the road and its maintenance. The road was initially supposed to be maintained by a developer, but that has not happened.
Read more: Facing heavy traffic and poor street maintenance, these Pender County residents made their own toll
The toll road was implemented on Friday and maintained over the holiday weekend. The operation was largely a success, Conerly said.
“There were over 1,800 vehicles on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in 2017. This year thanks to the signage on Highway 210 and the entrance to Creek Estates, the traffic was down to less than 800 vehicles on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in 2018,” Conerly said. “This has been a highly successful step toward a safer neighborhood with a manageable level of traffic. The toll collected will be applied to the CL/CE RMO general maintenance fund.”
Despite the toll being hailed as a success, it was not without incident, he said.
“Saturday there were two toll points, traffic was above the normal, and resulted in four calls to 911, one case around 9:30 a.m. with a vehicle refusing to stop and hitting the toll volunteer and another volunteer’s vehicle,” he said. “Surf City police and Pender Sheriff’s dept were called. No injury or significant damage incurred. (An) individual was detained, questioned, and released.
“The vast majority of the vehicles, there was some 800 on Saturday, were neutral to positive with no real problems,” he said. “We even had some that gave us donations that were not from the community …”
About 30 percent of the cars that used the route responded negatively, but still paid, Conerly said. An estimated 50-60 of drivers turned around without paying, and only a few people refused to pay but still used the road.
New growth in region is just the beginning
The rapid growth of Eastern Pender County is apparent with the construction of several new schools in the area, as well as the construction of a new bridge leading to Surf City.
For Conerly, the increased traffic on Cedar Avenue is just the beginning of an emerging pattern.
More development in the region has led to more traffic on many of the area roads, and if the state were to take control of the road, it would be beneficial to everyone involved, according to Conerly.
“Looking again now at the big picture view, anyone coming from south of Surf City will have a great shortcut to get home via our shortcut. They can avoid the lights, the congestion, and the traffic just by using this great public shortcut,” he said.
The toll is not going to be a weekly happening, but the group did decide to bring the toll back on the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends.
The group has also decided to allow non-residents the opportunity to purchase a “friends and family” pair of passes for $75. This will be available to the general public and only available for purchase in pairs.
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