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Community House Road work set for 2012

Work will begin in early 2012 on Community House Road in Ballantyne.

The Community House Road construction project, headed by the Charlotte Department of Transportation, will cost around $7 million and include improvements such as sidewalks, bike lanes, uniform street lamps, landscaping and the placement of a roundabout at the intersection of Community House Road and Bryant Farms Road.

"We want the roads to reflect the neighborhoods and schools around it because the area has high pedestrian traffic," said Joe Frey, project manger for CDOT. "Right now, it just looks like a through street for commuters."

Lately, some community members have spoken against the additions, particularly the roundabout. They are worried the roundabout will slow traffic even more. There are three schools along Community House Road: Hawk Ridge Elementary, Community House Middle and Ardrey Kell High. Wait times for cars lined up before and after school are long.

Traffic from those schools, plus commuters, has made the area congested and unsafe for pedestrians.

"I understand why people might be concerned about a roundabout," said Frey. "But it's all about perception. Because there aren't many roundabouts in the area, (community members) are unfamiliar with them. But we've done detailed study analysis and the advantages of the roundabout outweigh signalizing the intersection."

According to Frey, one of the major advantages to the roundabout is that it forces traffic to slow.

"The major reason for accidents in an intersection is that people don't stop at red lights or they speed up to make the yellow ones," said Frey. "When you approach a roundabout, you are forced to slow down to make the turns. You can't drive through a roundabout going 50mph."

Although traffic will move slower, it doesn't necessarily mean longer waits. Jim Beck, project manager for DRMP, the development firm assisting CDOT during the project, said the delay will be reduced.

"It sounds counterintuitive, but even though traffic will be slower, it will be continuously moving (through the roundabout) versus the continual stop-and-go of the signal," he said. "With a signal, the delay time is 57.4 seconds and you may have to go through several cycles before you make it through the light. With a roundabout, the delay time is 16.8 seconds, which is a significant difference."

The roundabout also will allow cars from surrounding neighborhoods to more easily enter moving traffic.

"We've had complaints from the people driving on Willow Rock Road who said they can't even pull onto Community House Road in the morning," said Beck. "The roundabout will create more frequent (traffic) gaps that allow them to enter traffic safely."

The roundabout also will allow safer pedestrian crossing. With three schools and the Morrison YMCA on Community House Road, the number of people walking and biking on the street is high.

The roundabout will divide traffic lanes with a median and add crosswalks and pedestrian islands that will allow people to cross only one lane of traffic at a time.

There also will be pedestrian sidewalks, crosswalks and islands added at the intersection of Ardrey Kell Road and Community House Road and at the Highland Grove neighborhood, where students now walk on the curb or in the street to get to school.

"We are working closely with Highland Grove to ensure their children can walk to school safely," said Frey.

Frey said the roundabout and other street improvements won't negatively affect commuters.

"We looked at everything and considered how (the changes) would affect everyone," said Frey.

The sidewalks, which will be 6 feet wide, also will be part of the area's landscaping and beautification. The area is lined with trees, and Frey said they will not remove them. Instead, they will curve the sidewalks around the trees.

The project's plans are 90 percent ready. Since project development began in 2008, CDOT has had three public meetings and is working with the schools and the YMCA to buy land to expand.

"We want everyone to understand what's going to happen and how it's going to improve the area," said Frey. "We are working very closely with neighborhoods, the schools and the YMCA to make sure the plans work for everyone."