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Cornelius News

Our first roundabout: Davidson has concerns

North Main will change dramatically.

May 14. By Debbie Griffin. A tale of two towns and one roundabout continues to unfold as the NCDOT proceeds with a $6.9 million project where North Main, Davidson Street and Potts Street come together.

It’s also where the towns’ borders meet, where there is a railroad trestle of historic interest and where there is plenty of traffic.

Most land the future roundabout involves lies within Cornelius’ limits, but the project impacts several properties in Davidson as well. The Davidson Town Board voted April 23 to give the project a green light, but not before a few affected owners criticized the taking of land for the right-of-way.

The calls for less impact in Davidson are not likely to make a difference now, with the roundabout ready to advance to technical design. Davidson Town Manager Jamie Justice said at the recent meeting the project is on a “time clock” with funding as well as technical design and construction.

Davidson officials said they’d had multiple interactions with Cornelius staff and officials, who are empathetic but could not turn back now or it would mean scrapping the whole project.

The project should be completed in 2021. Awareness is growing as it enters the acquisition phase.

Both towns have frustrating traffic snarls as cars crawl along busy local roads, winding around the water and through charming downtowns.

Contemporary thinking is that a roundabout works better than a signalized intersection, one reason being that a signal would not allow left turns into the YMCA. The Cornelius Town Board, which has an advisory committee to help with decisions about transportation along Main Street, unanimously approved the roundabout in late 2017.

The North Main roundabout will be a sister to the Potts-Sloan-Beaty project in Davidson. The project includes a multi-use path and a road from Sloan to Potts, not just a roundabout.

Cornelius will likely get three more roundabouts along Torrence Chapel.

The roundabout coming to the Cornelius/Davidson border would be the first in Cornelius. It’s conceptualized as a single-lane roundabout with “slide” lanes. Many will just see it as a two-lane facility.

In both Cornelius and Davidson, traffic ultimately will flow into a two-lane street, one in each direction.

Some people say the old railroad trestle has its charms.

But Davidson Commissioner Jane Campbell said no one can get the railroad to meet or discuss


the right-of-way it owns.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, roundabouts are safer than signalized intersections. While they have a bigger footprint than traditional intersections, a roundabout will usually require less overall road widening.

There is value in slowing down traffic, which tends to reduce mishaps and fatalities.

Roundabout type and design go by how much traffic the infrastructure is expected to bear in its useful life. For example, FHWA describes one-lane roundabouts as varying in diameter from 45 to 180 feet, bearing traffic of 15,000-20,000 vehicles per day.

Two-lane roundabouts are used for traffic volumes up to 45,000 cars a day, and they vary in diameter from 150 feet to 300 feet. A Bloomberg article says 275 roundabouts were built in America during 2010.

While the recession has slowed their construction since then, data keepers acknowledge it’s difficult to get an accurate count of how many are being built or planned.

Roundabouts have the power to move traffic efficiently, but their arrival can sometimes be contentious.

It remains to be seen whether the NCDOT will take Davidson’s requests into consideration, but it became clear at the recent meeting that there is no turning back on the project now.