Transportation plan calls for more roundabouts

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Traffic signals are common at busy intersections as its the typical solution to keep a large number of cars moving smoothly and safely. But that's not always the case anymore. Planners are finding roundabouts may be a safer solution in some areas.

The reconstruction of River Road added two roundabouts for the River Lights development.

"Roundabouts serve a number of different benefits. They improve mobility, safety," said Mike Kozlosky, the executive director of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

With close to 3,000 homes, a marina and commercial businesses and bike and walking paths planners decided the roundabouts would work well.

"You'll be able to go from the residential to the commercial very easily and with that you want a slower roadway that will provide for those mix of uses," said Kozlosky.

The intersection at Sanders and River Road changed to a roundabout in December 2016. There were 27 crashes there in the last five years and many people questioned why a traffic signal wasn't installed.

Engineers with the department of transportation say the roundabout is a safer alternative, forcing drivers to slow down as they approach the intersection, something they didn't have to do before.

Some of the people who drive River Road every day aren't so sure roundabouts are the best solution.

"I don't know if it's the best answer as opposed to a traffic light. The one at Sanders Road I found weird because it's kind of like built in to almost like a turn," said driver Brian Smith.

"The roundabouts, I think, could also have the potential to create more traffic hazards because the roundabouts are really small," Deborah Conard said. "When you look at all the amount of traffic going thru the roundabouts, at some point it's going to become a stop sign instead of a yield sign because people are going to be backing up."

There are plans for three more roundabouts included in the Wilmington 2014 transportation bond.

The city is still evaluating whether roundabouts would be a good solution for traffic issues at Pine Grove and Holly Tree, Pine Grove and Greenville Loop and Wallace and Wrightsville Avenue. Studies on the number of car wrecks, delays in traffic and public input were all taken into consideration.

"As part of our long-range transportation plan, we have a very significant and robust public input process. So these recommendations were part of that effort," said Kozlosky.

Christina Bergeron lived in Europe where roundabouts are very popular. She likes the idea of adding more around Wilmington.

"It was very different," Bergeron said. "At first I did end up having to learn how to use them. I was very afraid of them because I didn't know how they operated but in the long run after being there I think it was a lot safer especially in a country where they drive very fast."

Members of The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization take a lot of things into consideration when they develop plans to deal with traffic issues. They look long range at growth, the increase in population, engineering analysis, traffic counts, and much more.

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