Saturday, December 2, 2023

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

DOT should scrap trendy roundabout

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And on the topic of transportation fads, the N.C. Department of Transportation needs to scrap the roundabout that it now has planned for the intersection of East Harden and East Elm streets.

These streets are also known as N.C. 49 and N.C. 54, two state highways that run through the county seat, both of which have a good deal of traffic – including, significantly, tractor-trailer traffic.

Roundabouts are one of the favorite new fads of transportation engineers, and they’re springing up all across the state.

And in little residential areas, they’re fine – nice, almost quaint, little “traffic calming” devices that perhaps slow traffic (i.e., cause backups), but they’re relatively harmless.

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However, a “roundabout” that tractor-trailers can get around takes a huge amount of room – so much so that the DOT has filed condemnation proceedings against the owners of two properties, whose entire livelihoods would be crushed by the widening needed to accommodate a roundabout. What is already a four-lane road with a turn lane will require two corner lots.

Much like “open classrooms” (in education) and “pedestrian malls” in lieu of streets (in urban planning), we predict this fad will be a failure, with the same result: millions in tax dollars to reverse the effects of the fad.

We notice that DOT has cynically offered to pay the owner of one lot about $62,735 for a lot that is valued, even on the tax books, for more than 10 times that amount: $860,462. We strongly suspect that any reasonable judge is going to make DOT pay far more than its initial offer as “just compensation” (the guarantee under the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment).
The expense for the roundabout is only going to get worse.

But it’s simply not going to be worth the price – neither in the tax dollars that it will cost to construct, the huge amount of land that will have to be taken to make room for it, or, most importantly, as a means to improve traffic flow.

They should cut their losses and abandon the idea now – before the price tag grows.

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