Some concerns still linger with residents over planned roundabout
by Mike Parks
BALLANTYNE – Changes are coming soon to busy Community House Road in Ballantyne, though not all residents are exactly sold on the plan as of yet.
City planning and transportation leaders intend to improve Community House between Bryant Farms and Ardrey Kell roads by adding, among other changes, designated left-turn lanes in both directions of Community House onto Ardrey Kell, medians near Ardrey Kell High and Community House Middle schools, bikes lanes, better pedestrian crossing options and additional sidewalks to fill in gaps around the schools and Morrison YMCA.
“There’s some gaps in the sidewalks that need to be taken care of, especially with the two schools there,” Joe Frey, project manager for the road improvements, said. “Particularly on the east side of Community House from the High Grove neighborhood to the middle school, there’s no sidewalks there. If you stood out there one morning you would see kids walking to school on the shoulder of the road.”
But the sticking point for some in the area so far is a traffic circle planned at the intersection of Community House and Bryant Farms.
The roundabout is expected to be one lane throughout, with exit options north and south onto Community House and east onto Bryant Farms. City planners say the roundabout is necessary in part due to the concerns of residents, who told the city about people speeding through the intersection or drivers who ignore the need to stop. Also, transportation officials say the circle should help move traffic more quickly through the intersection as opposed to what’s happening now – a problem that will only intensify as population grows in Ballantyne.
But neighbors have concerns, especially in the nearby Vineyard and Cobblestone neighborhoods. A handful of people spoke at a recent road improvement meeting in Ballantyne about the project, calling on the city to schedule another meeting to address their specific concerns over the roundabout. Charlotte City Council Representative Warren Cooksey promised to get a meeting set up, and as of Tuesday, Dec. 27, he said one was in the works. Frey said he is working on information to help people better understand the roundabout, and will be speaking with representatives of the schools to make sure everyone is prepared for construction and the new road configuration.
“It’s a matter of just getting people used to it,” Frey said of the roundabout. “I’m hopeful that once it opens, people will see it’s not such a complicated thing and they will see the advantages of it.”
Residents worry the roundabout will only back traffic up more as people wait to drive through the circle, making it impossible for the residents to leave their communities during peak rush hours. The unfamiliarity of roundabouts may also contribute to the problem, neighbors worry, as there aren’t many of the structures in the area and drivers may be hesitant when they come up on the circle. There is one at Conlan Circle in Ballantyne, but that roundabout is between shopping areas and not on heavily traveled roads.
Residents also voiced concern over the roundabout possibly slowing down emergency vehicles or causing problems for school buses. But transportation officials say the roundabouts are built with those vehicles in mind, and that won’t be a problem.
The overall project is part of the city’s Farm-To-Market program, which seeks to update and improve older roads that were originally built to link agricultural land to markets and trading centers. These roads typically have sharp curves and poor sight lines that contribute to wrecks.
The city recently finished buying up real estate around the project so work can begin. That process took longer than Frey had hoped, meaning serious construction on the road likely won’t start until the summer. Utility companies will start in early 2012 moving poles and power lines out of the way of planned construction, and the project should go out to bid this spring. It’s a $7.5 million project in all which should take a little more than a year to finish.
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