Town Board votes to reduce speed limit and add a crosswalk
Drivers coming into Highlands will have to slow down soon as they round the curve before the intersection of Little Bear Pen and Cashiers Road. The Highlands Town Board of Commissioners approved a request from residents of Little Bear Pen at the monthly meeting on Aug. 16., after they submitted a petition to reduce the speed limit from 35 to 25 miles per hour passing through the intersection.
Little Bear Pen resident James Worrell asked the board to work with the residents and the Department of Transportation to make the intersection safer citing lack of sight distance around the curve, a number of close calls and near misses, a park across the street that attracts pedestrians, and roadside developments along the curve.
“It’s a safety concern for anyone coming down our mountain,” said Worrell. “The DoT recommends a speed reduction, the town just needs to extend the 25 mph around the curve.”
The board asked for Highlands Police Chief Bill Harrell to weigh in and he said the department would support any action the board takes.
Commissioner Brian Stiehler said he endorsed the reduced speed limit and the board approved it unanimously. After the town submits a form to the DoT with their approval of the DoT’s recommendation the speed limit will change within 30 to 60 days said Finance Director Rebecca Shuler.
Highlands resident Mark Coats lives at the intersection of Horse Cove Road and 6th Street and said he often sees pedestrians confused as to how to find the Nature Center or the trailhead to Sunset Rock. He added that the blind curves from either direction added a safety issue for those trying to cross.
“I see them all of the time,” said Coats. “Things like mothers others pushing strollers up the roadway. It’s a miracle someone hasn’t been hurt yet.”
Public Works Director Lamar Nix said at the board meeting that he met with N.C. DoT after a traffic volume study was conducted to determine if the intersection of Horse Cove Road and 6th Street warranted a stop sign. Nix said the results showed a four-way stop was not necessary, but a crosswalk is sufficient.
Nix suggested putting in a crosswalk making it easier for pedestrians to navigate up the road.
“We decided to move it up a little bit (towards town from the intersection) to give pedestrainsmore line of sight,” said Nix.
In order to do that the town needs to lengthen the current pathway and install the landing pads for the crosswalk, the DoT will paint the actual crosswalk. Commissioner Jon “Buz” Dotson he would prefer turning the gravel walkway along Horse Cove into a pavement walkway but Nix said there was currently no funding to do so.
The board voted to approve building the crosswalk and extending the gravel walkway to the crosswalk.
Dotson voted against the project.
“I think there ought to be sidewalks and they ought to be concrete,” said Dotson.
Coats said a crosswalk is not enough.
“They need to put speed limit signs here,” said Coats. “No one slows down and someone is going to get hurt. Otherwise I feel the town is just wasting their time.”
In other news
- The board approved rezoning the three parcels of land at the Performing Arts Center and combining them into one parcel. The single parcel was rezoned Government/Institutional Conditional Use. This paves the way for the PAC to begin construction on the planned renovations.
- The board approved amending the definition of what a “pole attachment” is and amended the town pole fee schedule. An attachment is now defined as anything physically attached to a pole. The fees are now $10 per attachment as opposed to $10 per pole in the hopes of getting customers to remove unused attachments taking up space on the pole. By making this change the town stands to receive an additional $15,000 from Frontier and $8,400 from Northland.