By David Rogers. June 19, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Given an abundance of sunshine, including a backdrop of white fluffy clouds in the distance, workmen were on the scene Monday, installing new stoplights at the intersection of Valley Blvd. (U.S. 321 Bypass) and South Main St. in Blowing Rock.
The new signal lights have been promised for over a year after residents complained to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) about the safety of commuters wanting to cross Valley Blvd. onto Skyland Dr., turn left from South Main St. to go north, or turn left from Skyland Dr. (southbound). To his credit, local resident and NCDOT board member representing the High Country region, Cullie Tarleton, was instrumental in getting it done.
While Blowing Rock Police Chief Tony Jones reported recently to the Board of Commissioners that the department’s radar tests over several weeks have not indicated a serious speeding problem on Valley Blvd., Blowing Rock News has conducted its own independent and admittedly unscientific survey. When driving on any stretch of the road between Tanger Outlets and Green Hill Rd., we adhere to the 35 mph speed limit unless passed by a vehicle going significantly faster. On those occasions, we speed up to see if we can match the passing vehicle’s speed. In a few instances, we are matching them at 40 mph. In most instances, we have had to speed up to between 45-55 mph. On three occasions during the last month, we have sped up to 70 mph and cars or trucks have still been pulling away from us. In one of the 70 mph instances as we were southbound between South Main and what is now The Ridgeline restaurant (formerly Canyons), the passing vehicle pulled away and less than three seconds later a BRPD patrol vehicle passed us in the opposite direction. No red or blue lights. No U-turn to go catch the offenders. Evidently, they went unnoticed (we have since been advised that only a limited number of officers are radar-trained, as yet).
With the South Main/Valley Blvd. intersection risk fixed with signals, the remaining danger spots are  trying to make a left-hand turn onto southbound Valley Blvd from the Food Lion shopping center;  turning left onto southbound U.S. 321 from Country Club Dr.;  crossing U.S. 321/Valley Blvd. from Green Hill Rd. to The Rock Rd., or turning left from either street onto U.S. 321/Valley Blvd. Given our conversations with NCDOT officials, don’t expect those danger spots to be “fixed” any time soon,
The frequent days of fog in Blowing Rock compound the safety risk along U.S. 321/Valley Blvd., especially at those danger spots, as does the “right in-right out” requirement for many of the businesses along the busy thoroughfare. If, for example, a guest of Foggy Rock wants to go north on Valley Blvd., i.e. back to Boone, he or she is forced to first turn right, switch over to the left hand lane, and then travel an estimated quarter-mile just to make a U-turn at the Ransom Street intersection, by Subway and Blowing Rock Medical Park. But you can’t (at least you are not supposed to) use that intersection to pull into Subway, either. You have to go up to the South Main intersection and make a U-turn.
It might well be argued that 35 mph is too slow of a speed limit for U.S. 321/Valley Blvd. Maybe it should be increased to 40 but, of course, the fear is that it would give drivers using the route through town at least a mental license to speed even more frequently, and faster. There is hope that with the highway stretch from Green Hill Rd. and Blackberry Rd. nearing completion that the State Highway Patrol will become more active in the area, relieving the need for BRPD officers to patrol that section of the state highway as frequently.
But after almost being “T-boned” nine times turning left from Food Lion just since January because northbound cars (and in one instance a 53-foot 18-wheeler) are flying through, I’m not holding my breath — but just thankful to still be breathing.