Roundabout construction gets moving, but benefits will take time

Roundabout construction gets moving, but benefits will take time


Abraham Mahshie – Contributing Writer

Continuous flow is the stated goal of four roundabouts and work that began Nov. 26, but roadwork delays are likely until completion scheduled for September 2020.

“One-lane roundabouts are becoming more and more popular all over North Carolina and they lead to better traffic flow,” said David Uchiyama, public relations official for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT), citing reduced congestion and increased safety, especially near schools.

Uchiyama explained that a four-way stop allows for 32 different possible accident scenarios, including potentially fatal head-on and T-bone crashes. Roundabouts have the potential for only eight accident scenarios, all side swipes.

The four roundabouts under construction will be built simultaneously at the intersections of 441 Business and Womack, Maple, Wayah and Porter, and at the intersection of Wayah and Depot streets.

NC DOT initiated the project at the behest of local officials and the public in late 2016 based on a proven track record of reducing congestion near schools across the state.

Unfamiliarity breeds fear

Uchiyama explained that in addition to improving traffic flow during pick-up times, the nature of a roundabout means drivers won’t be unnecessarily stopping and waiting outside of those times.

“You just keep moving,” he said. While commonplace in Europe, DOT knows using a roundabout is unfamiliar to some and provides an online resource for how they work.

“In general, people’s fears go away once they’ve gone through it twice and they say, ‘Oh, it’s great!” he said. 

Franklin contractor Watson Contracting Inc. is required to stay off the roads between 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. on school days and will do the bulk of the work when school is out of session. The project will cost taxpayers $5.7 million.

The project goes beyond “white line to white line,” explained Uchiyama, with utility and drainage work planned for the winter.

Asked if the work is on-schedule, Uchiyama replied, “It’s so early, it’d be hard to be off schedule.”