Hillsborough Street roundabout reopens with simpler design

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comJuly 30, 2012 

— After two years of frequent crashes blamed on its confusing twin-ring configuration, the roundabout in front of N.C. State University’s Bell Tower got a slimmed-down safety fix over the weekend.

The roundabout at Hillsborough Street and Pullen Road reopened Monday after the overnight repair, with a simpler one-ring design. Traffic moved quietly Monday – no blaring horns and squealing tires, for a change – and smoothly.

“I was out there at 6:30 a.m. watching cars for a little while,” said John Sandor, a city transportation engineer. “It looked a lot less complex. Drivers were merging right in.”

Police logged more than 100 crashes in the first 20 months after the eccentric two-lane roundabout opened in summer 2010 as part of a $9.9 million makeover for eight blocks of Hillsborough. Most of the accidents occurred when eastbound drivers on Hillsborough failed to yield to cars already in the roundabout.

Sometimes the accidents happened as cars in the roundabout were sliding from one lane to another. Drivers on Hillsborough were confused by the requirement that they yield for two lanes of traffic before entering the roundabout.

Now the intersection looks more like the city’s one-ring roundabouts, which have not had high crash counts.

“It’s so simple now,” Sandor said. “It’s like any common roundabout that you’re going to approach.”

Workers applied new stripes and raised plastic domes to the pavement to keep drivers in a single lane. They erased the outer lane of westbound Hillsborough between Oberlin Road and the roundabout, replacing it with a line of six new on-street parking spaces.

Consultants had recommended a single-ring design from the start, but Raleigh officials insisted on two rings to handle a higher volume of traffic. The new design is a temporary, low-cost fix. If it succeeds in reducing crashes without clogging traffic flow, the city is expected to to make the changes permanent.

Sandor said city engineers will monitor crash reports to see how well the new design works. Drivers who have avoided the roundabout should find it less perplexing now, he said.

“For those who may have had problems out there, if they were intimidated or confused, I think those problems have been eliminated,” Sandor said.

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/

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