Last week was busy beyond just the Christmas Tree issue. Let me cover two other issues.
First, the Land Use Committee met with NCDOT officials and Highlands Chamber of Commerce representatives to discuss the parking and tree issue on Main Street. I was not at the meeting since my presence would have violated the quorum rule that the town has to follow.
I have seen the plans that were reviewed at the meeting. They called for a limited number of trees to be planted in the center parking spaces on Main Street. The plan with trees planted approximately five feet from the travel lanes has no loss of parking, no parallel parking and no curbing. A few days after the meeting the DOT folks informed us they are willing to issue an encroachment permit for that plan. I received feedback that all parties at the meeting thought progress had been made. The next step will be a full update and review by board of commissioners at the Dec. 13 meeting.
Last Thursday there was a strong town presence of NC State Troopers in Highlands conducting an enforcement check for overweight trucks. According to Sergeant Gregory Dills, the regional supervisor the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, these operations routinely take place throughout this 17-county region.
I had the opportunity to meet with Sergeant Dills, Police Chief Bill Harrell and Town Manager Josh Ward to discuss the issue of tractor trailer trucks using the Gorge Road. Sergeant Dills agreed that this is a major problem and gave his support to work with us in solving this problem.
Our police will be sending the sergeant reports of tractor trailer truck violations on the Gorge Road. He will notify his federal counterparts in the U.S. Department of Transportation of these violations. The transportation department can send out notices to truckers and to insurance companies. These violations impact truck operators’ safety scores and also impact insurance rates and licensing privileges. Sergeant Dills says that the federal government can also direct truck companies to change their GPS systems to divert trucks from this route. All of this will not happen overnight, but by working together improvements should take place over time.
Also, I showed Trooper Dills our drawings of radar activated signs that would direct truckers away from the Gorge Road. He believes that the signs are a very good step and encouraged us to get DOT to place the signs on both ends of the Gorge Road.
He also stressed that the law governing tractor trailer trucks on the Gorge Road needs to be changed. Currently, the law is very complex involving 4 or 5 axle trucks and has weight restrictions. Sergeant Dills stated it is currently difficult to enforce, and that the problem is tractor trailer trucks on the Gorge Road, period. He recommends we work with our state legislative representatives to get the law changed to ban all tractor trailer trucks on the road regardless of the number of axles, weight and size.
I will be working with county and Franklin officials in contacting our representatives to get this law modified as Sergeant Dills has recommended. Again, it will take time.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor