By JOY CRIST
An April 27 open house hosted by the NCDOT and the entities building the North Rodanthe bridge posed an interesting question to locals who stopped by the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Center ? ?Are you ready for a roundabout??
The open house, (which is traditionally standard NCDOT procedure when a design change is made to an upcoming project like the Rodanthe bridge), was held to introduce residents to this new element of the upcoming 2.4-mile long structure, and to obtain feedback on its inclusion.
Now, in case you?re unfamiliar with the term, a ?roundabout? is also called a rotary, a traffic circle, or a traffic island, depending on what corner of the world you?re from. If you need a mental image, and you?ve seen National Lampoon?s European Vacation ? (and who hasn?t?) ? it?s that circular on-ramp / off-ramp that the Griswolds get stuck on for a few hours while Clark Griswold continually yells ?Hey look kids, it?s Big Ben!? every time they pass Parliament.
Essentially, the roundabout that is being planned for the southern terminus of the north Rodanthe bridge will have just one lane, (not three or four like its London counterpart), and four ?exits? for travelers. Once on the roundabout, vehicles can exit on the southern Highway 12, northern Highway 12, the north Rodanthe bridge itself, or Midgett?s Campground, which would be otherwise inaccessible without the exit. The planned roundabout has a roughly 250 ft. diameter, and will be located directly near the southern entrance of the bridge, next to America Drive in Rodanthe.
It will be the first of its kind on Hatteras Island to be sure – as an island with just one main road typically doesn?t need traffic circles – and it?s also one of the first on the Outer Banks as well. According to Tim D. Hass, NCDOT Public Relations Officer (Ferry & Div 1), there?s an almost secretive roundabout in a residential area in Manteo, but otherwise on the Outer Banks, that?s about it.
And the reason why the roundabout came to fruition is simply because it made the most sense in order to keep traffic flowing. ?The only change that?s taken place over the past year to the bridge plan is the roundabout,? said Keith Skinner of RK&K, the bridge?s designer. ?We went from a ?T? that would need a traffic signal, to a roundabout that would provide continuous service.?
?They?re popping up everywhere,? he added, ?and when [looking at ways] the design could be improved, there was more than one design team that proposed a roundabout.?
Adrian Price of Flatiron Construction, the contractor that will be building the bridge, agrees. ?This is going to help us with the traffic flow, and the level of service,? he says.
Not everyone who attended Thursday?s meeting was a fan of the idea, however. Rick Shaftan of Save Our Sound OBX, Inc., an organization that?s against the construction of the north Rodanthe ?jug-handle? bridge, noted that the public?s unfamiliarity with roundabouts could cause potential problems. ?[Most] people have never seen a roundabout,? he said, ?so when they get to it, they will stop short. On Saturday, it will create a mess.?
Though Shaftan does mention that the organization?s overlying issue isn?t the roundabout specifically, but the bridge itself. ?We don?t want the bridge to be built at all,? he said. ?[We?re concerned that] part of the goal is to cut off access to Pea Island, so it becomes a ?look, don?t touch? area.?
A lawsuit was filed against NCDOT?s proposed 2.4-mile north Rodanthe bridge, (and you can read all about it here in a wonderful and thorough blog by Cate Kozak), and though the lawsuit is still in process, the project is still on schedule as of right now with a projected January 2018 start date.
?We?re moving forward, and we?ll keep planning, and won?t stop until we?re told to stop,? said Price of Flatiron.
As for the open house itself, a lot of locals were drawn to the informal meeting to see the new changes and to provide their comments. ?This is typical [NCDOT] policy when you have something that changes from the [original] public hearing maps to the final plan,? said Hass in regards to the open house. ?It?s always good to show people the changes that are going to occur, and there are people here who are looking at the whole project for the first time, and who haven?t seen it in detail before.?
?It definitely impacts their communities, and we want people to be involved,? he added.
Locals and visitors who want to share their suggestions or concerns on the new roundabout can comment on the new addition by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or can send their comments via mail to Bryon Kyle, NCDOT Design-Build, 1595 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1595. The deadline to submit comments is May 11, 2017.