Roundabouts get their close-ups

Homeowners along Community House Road in the Ballantyne area poured into a public forum Wednesday night, June 26, to see what’s expected to be the final designs in a project that’s been “under way” for years.

Charlotte project manager Joe Frey (above, in white) answers questions about the planned         Community House Road roundabouts on Wednesday, June 26, at the Morrison Family YMCA.

Charlotte project manager Joe Frey (above, in white) answers questions about the planned Community House Road roundabouts on Wednesday, June 26, at the Morrison Family YMCA.

The two-phase project will add two roundabouts, sidewalks, turn lanes and new signals to a section of road that has become congested with a combination of new neighborhoods, cut-through traffic to South Carolina and Union County and expansion at the popular Morrison Family YMCA. Though Charlotte Department of Transportation officials are confident the proposed changes will make a world of difference for people used to driving on Community House, many homeowners still have their concerns, as heard at Wednesday’s meeting.

Worries still linger about the roundabouts themselves – whether the lanes will be wide enough for school buses and emergency vehicles (CDOT says yes), whether drivers unfamiliar with the traffic circles will be able to navigate them (CDOT says the structures are used to good effect in nearby Davidson) and whether the continued flow of traffic instead of vehicles having to stop at stop signs will make it impossible to get out of subdivisions during the morning and evening rush hours (yet to be seen). Neighborhoods affected by the project include Cobblestone, Vineyard, Ballanmoor, Landen Meadows, Highgrove and Weston Glen.

One Landen Meadows resident at Wednesday’s meeting said she often has trouble at the intersection of Ardrey Kell and Community House roads, where people and sometimes school buses run the light to turn left, she said. The project will add a left-turn lane in both directions on Community House, which should help the problem, though the resident said she was still doubtful about the roundabouts.

Another area homeowner said he was concerned the roundabouts will become overrun with traffic if more development pops up along Community House. Harris Teeter owns one large parcel of land, at the northeast corner of Bryant Farms at Community House across from the YMCA, which could be developed. The city still has to purchase some land from that parcel and others to complete the planned road improvements.

Despite issues such as those, many residents feel the long-awaited improvements will be just that – improvements.

“I think it is a more viable option than what they had before,” one woman said on Wednesday. Joe Frey, the project manager for the city, said he feels the majority of people he’s talked with feel that way. Now it’s just time to put the plan into action.

The project was originally intended to transform the stretch between Ardrey Kell and Bryant Farms roads into something more equipped to handle the explosion in population seen in south Charlotte. But the project itself has transformed over the last few years, bogged down by redesigns and pressure from new development and infrastructure additions. A decision to build a bridge on Community House over Interstate 485 as much as 15 to 30 years earlier than planned, and the expansion of the Ballantyne District Park behind the YMCA, forced designers to once again jump hurdles in what’s become a marathon effort.

Now the roundabout’s been expanded, another has been added and the project is in two pieces. The portion between Providence Road West and Ardrey Kell Road will go out to bid soon. Construction on that portion could start in October.

The second phase, between Providence Road West and Bryant Farms Road that will include the two roundabouts, will take longer. The city still has to finalize designs and buy more land, but Frey said repeatedly on Wednesday designs being shown to residents were what the city was moving forward with.

A timeline for that phase isn’t clear yet.

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