By Nathan Ham
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council, a petition with 298 signatures was presented to the council about concerns over speeding and noise on Valley Boulevard/Highway 321 traveling through Blowing Rock.
Lorry Mulhern, general manager of the Green Park Inn, spoke during public comment and presented the petition to the town council.
“This petition at its core is a compilation of suggested action that individuals have been offering to town government for years,” Mulhern said. “The residents, taxpayers and business owners who have signed this petition have united behind it in the hope that some additional, different actions might be taken in order to address this matter and we hope that the Blowing Rock town government will unite with us in this cause. Many stand ready to assist in any possible way, just ask.”
Blowing Rock Police Chief Aaron Miller was there to answer questions and shared a brief overview with council members and citizens in attendance about what the police department is doing in terms of traffic enforcement. Right now, the department has 13 full-time officers, 10 of which are assigned to traffic patrol and seven of those are certified to operate a radar.
According to traffic data, it is estimated that 2.8 million vehicles travel on Valley Boulevard through Blowing Rock each year.
“A loose estimate is that probably 20% of the traffic is exceeding 35 MPH on Valley Boulevard. We know that from the data that we collect. So if that is correct then there are 2,200 cars a day that are on Valley Boulevard that are exceeding 35 MPH,” Miller said.
So far in 2021, the Blowing Rock Police Department has stopped 1,893 cars, which is a high number for a department with seven radar-certified officers, according to Miller. There have been 28 accidents on Valley Boulevard so far in 2021 and just seven of those indicated that speed was a factor.
As far as traffic noise, Miller said that there is not a whole lot that can be done to enforce that, particularly for commercial trucks that need to use their engine brakes, commonly referred to as “Jake Brakes,” to slow down. When truck drivers let off the gas pedal, that engages the engine brake so the driver does not have to continually use the brake pedal to slow down. Riding the brakes can risk potentially burning out the brakes and having a truck that cannot stop going down a hill.
“The noise issue is much tougher. I don’t think that the noise issue is going to be solved by law enforcement intervention. We reached out to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. They have a division that just concentrates on commercial vehicles. I asked a few questions and I also talked with a supervisor that is over this district with motor carrier enforcement. A few of the questions I asked were how do you regulate truck noise? The answer from the NC Highway Patrol was, we don’t. They explained to me the process, they explained that it’s almost impossible, they don’t have the equipment to do it,” Miller said. “One question I asked the supervisor, what I’m trying to find out is if there is something we are not doing as far as truck noise on Valley Boulevard that we could be doing. His answer to me was no. I don’t think the noise issue is something that we are going to be able to eliminate.”
Councilwoman Sue Sweeting asked Chief Miller about motorcycle noise and asked if there was anything that could be done about that, including possibly putting up signage about motorcycles not having “adjusted mufflers.” Miller said that it is something that they could look at to see if other jurisdictions have tried putting up similar signage.