Residents petition Wrightsville Beach board for Waynick speed limit change

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A Wrightsville Beach resident delivered to the town’s board of aldermen a petition signed by 180 people requesting a speed limit change on Waynick Boulevard.

The petition requests a seasonal change of the Waynick Boulevard speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph. When presenting the petition to Mayor Bill Blair and the board during the Tuesday, June 12 meeting, Lillian Smith, a resident of South Lumina Avenue, described the pedestrian safety issues she and her neighbors regularly witness on the road.

Smith described the parking on Causeway Drive by beachgoers who must cross over the four lanes of traffic to reach the beach. Most are carrying items, many are escorting children, she said.

“Their hands are full with beach chairs, umbrellas and coolers. Some have children,” Smith said. “And they have to deal with cars traveling 35 miles per hour. Many drivers are not paying attention because they’re looking for parking.”

Drivers trying to find a parking spot will sometimes do a u-turn on the road, creating another traffic hazard for pedestrians, she said.

Waynick Boulevard, a 1.1-mile portion of N.C. State Road 76, has no sidewalk or bike lanes, she noted, forcing pedestrians and bicyclists to share lanes with the fast-moving traffic. Only the N.C. Department of Transportation can change the speed limit, which can make the change after a request from the local government body.

Smith said she has the support of her neighbors for the request in the speed limit change.

“The petition was well received by residents on Waynick and South Lumina,” she told the board.

Smith had spoken with New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White, who on May 25 sent an email to the NCDOT forwarding her request for the speed limit change.

Smith said an NCDOT engineer said that Waynick Boulevard is similar to other state roads where towns have seasonally lowered the speed limit for summertime crowds.

Another resident also spoke in support of the speed limit change, with Frank Gwathmey, also a South Lumina Avenue resident, describing decades of problems with speed on the road.

“Over the course of 40 years, I’ve seen numerous accidents, pedestrians and bicyclists hit, dogs and cats killed,” Gwathmey said, adding that a pedestrian and a bicyclist have each been hit on the road over the past four years. “I believe Waynick Boulevard has more pedestrian crossings than any other road in the state.”

Gwathmey said that a 2003 study of the road found that more than 14,000 cars traveled on the road each day during the busy summer hours.

“Many of these are the same cars, looking for parking,” he said.

Reducing the speed limit on Waynick Boulevard would extend the time to drive the road by only 47 seconds, while reducing noise on the road by 50 percent, he said.

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