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Ask Matt ... whether roundabout has reduced crashes

The Greenville Highway roundabout is one of 30 the NCDOT has built. [MATT MATTESON/Hendersonville Lightning] The Greenville Highway roundabout is one of 30 the NCDOT has built. [MATT MATTESON/Hendersonville Lightning]

Q. What was the final cost of the Greenville Highway roundabout and has it actually reduced traffic accidents as promised?

The Greenville Highway roundabout was completed in late 2019 at cost of a cool $7.1 million. This includes design, right-of-way acquisition and construction. It was not a cheap build but seldom does a small highway project require the relocation of a major stream.
According to the NCDOT, in the five years preceding construction, there were 30 vehicle crashes on Greenville Highway at the misaligned Erkwood Drive and Shepherd Street. Six of those crashes had injuries. That’s an average of one accident every 60 days. Post-roundabout statistics show that in the last two years there were seven crashes with zero injuries.
State highway officials expect that over time the added efficiency of the roundabout will improve substantially. One reason is that a driver generally enters the roundabout more quickly than if waiting at a traffic signal at a dead stop. In addition, the modern roundabout is small enough to require vehicles to travel at lower speeds (15 to 20 mph), making it safer than navigating large traffic circles. The slower speeds make it easier for a driver to find a gap of traffic inside the roundabout before safely entering.
NCDOT has followed the safety of 13 intersections throughout the state that were replaced with roundabouts through the year 2020. For that group, front-impact crashes were down 62% and fatal and injury crashes were down 79%. The state has built about 30 roundabouts to date.
Don’t like roundabouts? Blame the guy who thought them up – British traffic engineer Frank Blackmore. The first modern roundabout opened in 1970 in England and employed the mandatory “give way” rule for cars entering. Old style traffic circles such as those found in our nation’s capital or around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris are not defined as roundabouts.
But if you are a roundabout aficionado you’ll love what our highway folks are doing to U.S. 64 West (Brevard Road) in and near Laurel Park. The plan is to remove two traffic signal lights and build four roundabouts in a one-mile stretch from White Pine Drive to Blythe Street. Yes, you heard four because earlier designs called for three. There will be one at White Pine Drive, Daniel Drive, Pisgah Drive and Glasgow Lane. Turn lanes will continue to serve Laurel Park Shopping Center and Coats North America. No additional travel lanes will be added but there will be a 5-foot wide bike lane on either side of U.S. 64. The state is already in the right-of-way acquisition phase of the project, which is scheduled for bidding in 2024. The additional land needed for the project will require the removal of the State Farm insurance office at Daniel Drive and perhaps some other structures. The Laurel Park Town Council supports the four-roundabout design.

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