Published: Oct 21, 2012 11:06 AM
Modified: Oct 21, 2012 11:07 AM
CARY - Talk of roundabouts goes ’round and ’round. While two downtown traffic circles are headed toward construction, the Cary Town Council has vetoed proposals to install the design at a busy western Cary intersection.
The crossroads of contention this month was Cary Parkway and High House Road, where traffic delays could quintuple within eight years, according to town staff. And with a $3 million federal grant set to expire, the town has to make some decisions about the burgeoning area.
One town proposal would have put up to three traffic circles on the roads near the intersection, with a goal of easing left-hand turns at the intersection and at the exits of nearby shopping areas.
Instead of making left turns at Cary Parkway and High House, some drivers would have crossed the intersection, circled the roundabout and made a right turn when they returned to the intersection.
While some council members liked the idea, their colleagues’ concerns about driver confusion won the day. Engineering Director Tim Bailey agreed that the intersection’s heavy traffic loads could push the roundabout design’s – and the drivers’ – limits.
“You make people go all around their elbow,” Councilwoman Gale Adcock said of the roundabout design at an Oct. 11 meeting.
“It’s totally foreign to people,” said Councilman Don Frantz. “Just because we have the money, I don’t think we necessarily need to spend it.”
Instead, they instructed town staff to use the money to widen the road. The widening is expected to cut delays to a third of what they’d be otherwise, but the extra lanes can’t match the improvements seen from some of the roundabout designs.
The wider road also won’t alleviate bottlenecks at the exits of shopping areas that ring the crossroads, Bailey said.
The widening would require removal of some decorative vegetation, but the town expects to preserve the crossroad’s iconic clock tower. And while it should cut down on wait times across the area, “over time it will continue to degrade,” Bailey said.
“If this is what we do, we would end up long term looking at some ways to deal with that,” he added.
The town may eventually consider “superstreets,” the complex intersection design that has sparked heated discussion wherever it lands, Bailey said, prompting a collective council groan.
Town staff will prepare more detailed plans for the intersection, which the council will consider again in coming months.
In the meantime, plans are rolling for downtown roundabouts at Chatham Street’s intersections with East Durham Road and Old Apex Road. Contractors’ bids to build the projects are due at the end of the month.