Traffic

New roundabout coming to rural Johnston County

The planned roundabout at N.C. 39 and N.C. 42 in Johnston County. The two short ramps will be used for making right turns from eastbound 42 onto southbound 39 and from westbound 42 onto northbound 39.
The planned roundabout at N.C. 39 and N.C. 42 in Johnston County. The two short ramps will be used for making right turns from eastbound 42 onto southbound 39 and from westbound 42 onto northbound 39. NCDOT

The N.C. Department of Transportation will install a roundabout at the intersection of two state highways in a rural corner of Johnston County later this year.

The roundabout will replace the four-way stop at the crossroads of N.C. 39 and N.C. 42 north of Selma. NCDOT engineers say the roundabout should make the intersection safer to navigate even as it keeps traffic moving.

There were 12 accidents that resulted in injuries at the intersection in the five years ending March 2015, according to NCDOT. During that time, traffic on N.C. 39 stopped at the intersection, but vehicles on busier N.C. 42 did not.

As an interim step, the intersection was made a four-way stop, said NCDOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale. The intersection, known as Hares Crossroads, does not have enough traffic to justify stop lights, Barksdale said.

The existing intersection has an odd shape. The two highways meet at a skewed angle, with short ramps in each corner – two for making right turns only and two with two-way traffic. The roundabout will soften the skewed angle, but two of the ramps will remain, making it easier to make right turns in the tightest corners.

The new roundabout will largely fit within the footprint of the existing intersection, Barksdale said.

Fred Smith Co. of Raleigh recently received a $2.3 million contract for the project and can begin construction after April 2. The existing intersection will remain open until the new one is finished sometime before the end of the year.

Roundabouts are more commonly found in suburban subdivisions and shopping centers and places such as the Hillsborough Street area of Raleigh, where three more will open later this year.

But NCDOT is increasingly using roundabouts to bring order to rural crossroads, too. The intersection of N.C. 96 and N.C. 98 a few miles east of Wake Forest was converted to a roundabout late last year, and NCDOT will hold a public meeting Feb. 13 to present plans to build a roundabout where N.C. 410 and N.C. 41 meet near Bladen Community College west of Elizabethtown.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling

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