Architect: Roundabout plan is wrong for Hillsborough Street

Posted November 10, 2015

— As Raleigh plans for the next phase of the ongoing project to improve Hillsborough Street, one local, high-profile architect says the plan's focus is on the wrong thing.

The Hillsborough Street Revitalization Project calls for an additional $13 million to be used, in part, to construct three roundabout intersections at Shepard Street, Brooks Avenue and Dixie Trail. Roundabouts slow traffic on the major thoroughfare, but Frank Harmon says they also detract from the streetscape.

"I think our goal should be to make Hillsborough Street a decent, lively place for pedestrians as well as cars," he said.

Harmon, an award winner for his work at the JC Raulston Arboretum, the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center and on First Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh, says roundabouts eliminate corner stores and create dead spots.

Raleigh drivers have also demonstrated resistance to roundabouts. The first iteration of the roundabout, which opened at Hillsborough Street and Pullen Road in 2010, created so much confusion that that the city changed it from two travel lanes to one..

Contradicting Harmon's argument, Eric Lamb, Raleigh's transportation planning manager, points to economic development in that location.

"You've got a brand new hotel that's opened up. You've got another development in place," he said.

A new condominium complex, 927 West Morgan, abuts a second roundabout four blocks to the east.

Harmon also raised concerns about pedestrian safety, but police data show that's a non-issue. In 15 accidents so far this year – 10 at Pullen Road and five at Morgan Street – not a single one involved a pedestrian or cyclist.

"I'm not against roundabouts, but I think these are the wrong ones," Harmon said.

He wants the City Council to slow down on a plan scheduled to be completed by the middle of 2017.


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  • Dana McCall Nov 11, 2015
    user avatar

    Frank Harmon is wrong here. "Corner" retail can exist in the curve just as well as on an angle, and cars will ultimately get from the belltower to Meredith in less time if signalized intersections are replaced with roundabouts. The zone will be safer because people will keep a slower, constant pace than gunning it to try to beat red lights.

  • Rover Lesley Nov 11, 2015
    user avatar

    The roundabouts have made my daily commute through the Hillsborough and Pullen intersection so much easier, it's not even funny. They work, put in more of them, a lot more of them! Just take out the stoplights at nearby intersections (Enterprise Street) that back up traffic into the circles during heavy traffic periods (i.e., lunch). It's the stoplights that create problems, not the circles. Further, the reduced two-lane road on Hillsborough now supports metered parking, allowing people to access merchants. Of course this is better than the old four-lane highway through a pedestrian-heavy campus. An architect should be embarrassed to make such comments. I look forward to the next set of circles--keep them coming!

  • H Lee Dawson Nov 11, 2015
    user avatar

    I hope they do better the Nash County did. They put a roundabout out near the community college and going west is OK but going east you have to make a sharp left as you approach the traffic circle than a sharp right as you enter the traffic circle then turn back to the left as you go through the traffic circle if you hit that thing at night and you don't know its there, you will be in trouble.

  • H Lee Dawson Nov 11, 2015
    user avatar

    I don't see why they need to slow traffic down traffic is already always at a slow crawl because they're looking for a parking spaces.

  • Jim Frei Nov 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Three that close together is too much; eliminate the onse at Brooks and Shephard and make it no left turns onto these streets from Hillsborough and remove the lights at these intersections. The other problem is that the radius is too short.

  • Djuana Beane Nov 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Ugh! I'm gonna stay away from Hillsborough. I hate those things.

  • Roy Hinkley Nov 10, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Holi Cannoli, you and I agree.

    Seriously, a traffic engineer is the proper expert to consult in this instance.

  • Trisha Davis Nov 10, 2015
    user avatar

    It was all wrong for Sanford too. Not enough traffic to have a double, back-to-back traffic circle that's quite confusing to maneuver.

  • John Kramer Nov 10, 2015
    user avatar

    A roundabout is not about appearance, it is about traffic flow and safety. A traffic engineer, not an architect, needs to make this decision.