In recent years, roundabouts – or traffic circles – have been popping up in suburban Charlotte.
The city is also retrofitting some traditional traffic-light intersections into roundabouts, including a new project in west Charlotte near Wesley Heights that City Council approved Monday.
The city and the N.C. Department of Transportation will spend $4.4 million transforming the confusing five-way interchange of Tuckaseegee Road, Thrift Road and Berryhill Road into a European-style roundabout.
The city’s main goal in building new roundabouts is safety.
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“Roundabouts are great tools in the tool box with the right location,” said Danny Pleasant, who heads the Charlotte Department of Transportation. “They greatly reduce the conflict points. A standard intersection has 32 conflict points. A roundabout has eight.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation said studies have shown that when a two-way stop sign intersection is converted to a roundabout, the location can see an 82 percent reduction in severe crashes and a 44 percent decline in overall crashes.
The decline is similar when signalized intersections are also changed, with severe crashes dropping by 78 percent and overall crashes dropping by 48 percent.
Pleasant said Charlotte isn’t considering overhauling major intersections into roundabouts.
But on smaller streets, the idea is catching on, starting with a roundabout built in the late 1990s in First Ward, at North Davidson and East Ninth Street.
Charlotte recently finished two roundabouts in Community House Road near the Morrison Family YMCA in Ballantyne. The N.C. Department of Transportation also built several traffic circles on new interchanges along Interstate 485 in northeast and northwest Charlotte.
The city is also planning to build a new roundabout in southwest Charlotte, at Shopton Road and Beam Road near the Charlotte Fire Training Academy.
More are planned in the Charlotte area, including roundabouts at the intersections of N.C. 51 and Idlewild Road and N.C. 51 and Lawyers Road at Bain School Road.