Architect: Roundabout plan is wrong for Hillsborough Street

Posted November 10, 2015 6:15 p.m. EST
Updated November 10, 2015 7:16 p.m. EST

— 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.