Traffic

Redesigned Hillsborough Street traffic circle opens

Posted July 29, 2012 9:12 p.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2012 1:04 p.m. EDT

— The roundabout at Hillsborough Street and Pullen Road near North Carolina State University reopened early Monday with only one lane.

After a nearly 48-hour delay due to rain, workers got started on the roundabout Sunday evening and reopened it by 5 a.m., more than an hour ahead of schedule.

The new one-lane design got mixed reviews from drivers.

"I enjoyed the old way. I think people just needed to take their time, pay attention, watch were they were going," driver Kitty Banks said. "It was fine. It was simple to me."

Driver Michael Opdyke approved of the new traffic pattern.

"It really speeds up going around the curve. You don’t have to stop and think which lane am I going to be in, who’s coming," Opdyke said. "It’s much, much simpler and should have been done like this in the first place."

The intersection was made into a two-lane roundabout in 2010 as part of a street improvement project on Hillsborough Street from Oberlin Road to Gardner Street along the NCSU campus.

After 132 fender-benders in two years, though, the city and North Carolina Department of Transportation agreed in June to reduce the circle to one lane in hopes of improving traffic flow and pedestrian safety.

"Somebody almost creamed me, because they came into the roundabout and never even bothered to slow down or look," driver Pat Spakes said.

"Everybody's always weaving in and out. People blow their horns all the time," driver Colby Chance said.

In comparison, two two-lane roundabouts in Davidson County had 10 and 12 crashes each over three years, and another in Winston-Salem had 13 crashes in four years. In those roundabouts, one inner lane goes completely around the circle, while outer turn lanes go from road to road.

Some Raleigh drivers said the problems at the Hillsborough Street roundabout seem to lie less with design and more with drivers who don't understand how to navigate a traffic circle.

"People will stop, and they'll wait too long. They don't understand you have to yield to each other, but you can still keep going if you notice that somebody is coming in your path," said driver Kirsten Parrott. "Some people think that it's a stop sign."

John Sandor, a transportation engineer with the City of Raleigh, said they are trying reduce the number of "conflict points" in the area that could potentially cause crashes.

"We're feeling that this will simplify that and hopefully take some of the guesswork out of it," Sandor said.