Mike Mills, the division engineer for N.C. Department of Transportation Division Seven, which includes Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Rockingham and Caswell counties, said that there is currently a signalized intersection, but a roundabout would allow for more free-flowing movement.
“It’s been requested for many years,” he said. “I know it’s probably at least six, seven, maybe ten years that there’s been a traffic request at that intersection.”
Mills said the NCDOT scores projects based on data such as congestion, safety, mobility and accidents. Then, the division and the local Metropolitan Planning Organization put points on the raw data to bring it to the top of the projects list and give it greater priority.
“This one was scored high, so it’s now in the works to be a completed construction project,” Mills said.
Mills said the goal is now to get the right-of-way completed by 2017 and begin construction in 2018. If the public supports a roundabout, then it will be the solution to the problems with the intersection.
Mills said a priority for the project is that bicyclists and pedestrians feel safe with the roundabout. He said that in Guilford County, there is a roundabout near a high school that has handled pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Board of Aldermen member Sammy Slade said some questions that remain are how neighboring properties will be affected, including a bike path nearby.
“Ultimately what we want to do is maximize bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the kind of development that can lead people to alternatives to fossil fuel modes of transportation,” Slade said. “So those are some things I’ll be looking out for as we consider this as a possibility.”
Ron Carter is the council president of the City Council of Carmel, Ind. — the unofficial capital city of the roundabout. Carmel will be opening their 100th roundabout Thursday, with seven more under construction and eight more planned, in their city of a little over 90,000 people.
Carter said Carmel turned to roundabouts because they increase safety, decrease accident and personal injury rates and increase environmental sustainability.
“In most cases, they speed up to get to those stoplights. When you have a crash today at a stoplight — that really is a bad crash — it’s a T-bone,” Carter said. “With a roundabout, you don’t have T-bone crashes, you have glancing blows. And they are normally at a lower speed.”
He said their accident rates since beginning the transition to roundabouts have been cut by 40 percent and personal injury rates have been cut by 80 percent.
Carter said a specific environmental benefit of roundabouts is saving 24,000 gallons of fuel for consumers per each major roundabout yearly, because they no longer have to stall at red lights and waste gas. Another is that Carmel no longer has to power signalized intersections. Each roundabout saves about $400 in yearly power costs, and prior to LED lighting, a signalized intersection could cost $4,000 yearly, he said.
Carter said roundabouts are more efficient with processing traffic, getting about three times as many cars through an intersection as a signalized intersection. He said that this takes away the necessity of extra lanes for traffic because the intersections are so efficient.
Carter said the space saved from the extra lane of traffic could allow for landscaped medians, which are prettier and friendlier to the environment.
“We need to hear about these projects from the public because my office is in Greensboro, and people that go through those intersections every day have to tell us that they have an issue down there,” Mills said.