ALBEMARLE — Representatives from the N.C. Department of Transportation provided a presentation at the Stanly County Board of Commissioners meeting on July 11 and inquired into whether the board wanted to approve a roundabout at the intersection of N.C. Hwy. 73 and Millingport Road.
That intersection is the most dangerous one in the entire county — per the state DOT’s information — and a four-way stop was installed on June 28.
Sean Epperson, an NCDOT division project development engineer, estimated that around 50 or 60 cars accidentally drove through the new stop signs during the first few days after they were set up.
“Personally, I’d rather see a roundabout than a four-way stop or stoplights,” Commissioner Bill Lawhon said. “I would love to see rumble strips on 73. There is going to be an accident when somebody runs that stop sign going 60 or 65, and you’re going to have some deaths. I can get over their noise, but people aren’t stopping, and they’re not used to it.”
Epperson said that his project workers would look into the idea of installing rumble strips, adding that now is a good opportunity for the commissioners to approve the roundabout blueprint since it will come from a “high-impact, low-cost fund” provided by the state; that fund receives $1.4 million per year and has accumulated over the past few fiscal years.
“We’re looking at about a $3 million cost to build this roundabout,” Epperson said. “We’ve identified a funding source that does require a resolution from the county for us to get those funds obligated. If you do want us to pursue a roundabout and you do provide the resolution, we’re looking at about three years before we can build it.”
He added that if the board decided not to pursue a roundabout, that state funding would instead go to a different project.
Epperson’s presentation included studies by the Federal Highway Administration that demonstrated that roundabouts add up to a 30% 30 to 50% increase in traffic capacity because traffic can keep moving and flowing better. According to the presentation statistics, roundabouts do not address crash patterns as well as a stoplight or four-way stop.
Commissioner Peter Asciutto provided his input that he preferred a four-way stop over stoplights at the intersection: “We live in an area where people say they’re very conservative and they don’t want to spend tax dollars and they want to save lives. The four-way stop not only saves lives, but it’s a lot safer than a traffic signal. A traffic signal is going to cost over $100,000 more — plus $10,000 a year — and it’s not as safe as a four-way stop. Now, I just don’t understand why people who are conservative don’t want to save lives and save money at the same time.”
Because Chairman Tommy Jordan and Vice-Chairman Zach Almond could not attend the meeting, the commissioners opted to push the potential roundabout resolution decision to their next meeting on August 8, where they will have their entire board available to address the issue.