“Yeah, people do speed in the left lane here. I see people come down here 40 miles per hour,” said Sandy Cooper, owner of It’s By Nature, a store located on the strip. “Backing out here, I mean, people risk life and limb.”
Sylva officials recently gave North Carolina Department of Transportation officials the go-ahead to paint arrows and install turn lights at intersections on the downtown state road in an attempt to address safety and traffic concerns — drivers tend to speed in the left lane, making parking a dangerous prospect on that side of the one-way street.
“It’ll hopefully help slow down traffic,” said Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson. “It keeps the left lane from being a passing lane.”
With the arrows still freshly painted in the left lane, traffic hummed along in the right in late June. The solid white stripes stared awkwardly at the passing drivers as Roberson walked down Main Street on a mission — she didn’t have a read on the traffic-pattern change yet.
“It’s only been a day, so I really don’t know,” she said.
The new paint on the pavement is a change from plans laid in early June. Originally, town board members decided to install bumpouts — or sections of protruding curbage — along Main Street’s left side.
“Bumpouts would be permanent and the arrows will be temporary to see if it slows down traffic,” Roberson said.
The more recent decision to paint the left lane and forego the bumpouts — which DOT suggested — will allow time to see if the measure works before installing anything permanent on the street.
There’s also another reason to take it slow on the bumpouts. Town leaders are currently using a $10,000 Southwestern Development Commission grant to study downtown traffic issues and look at the possibility of taking Main Street back to the 1950s with a change to two-way traffic — which would render left-lane fixes moot.
“I don’t want to put money toward bumpouts until I’m sure two-way traffic isn’t going to work out,” Roberson said.
— Jeremy Morrison, News Editor