The people of Oak Ridge have spoken and now it’s all up to the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) – the decision whether or not to put a traffic circle in the middle of town, that is.

Last week, the Town of Oak Ridge held a public hearing so that local leaders and state transportation officials could hear from citizens on whether or not they wanted to see a traffic circle built at the busy intersection of NC-68 and NC-150, which is also known as Oak Ridge Road.

As one might have guessed, the reaction from the town’s people at the meeting was mixed, with some saying a traffic circle is the best solution for the problem at the intersection and others arguing that traffic circles are unsafe.

Just about everyone in Oak Ridge agrees that something needs to be done about the intersection that’s almost at the dead center of the town.  If a traffic circle, or “roundabout,” isn’t put in by the NCDOT, the NCDOT will need to widen the road and add lanes.

Oak Ridge Town Councilmember George McClellan said this week that he thinks some citizens who were initially opposed to roundabouts before the meeting had their minds changed during the discussion, but he added that the proposed traffic circle clearly still has its opponents.

The town has been in talks with the NCDOT about the issue and McClellan said that department is very good about listening to public input.

McClellan said a traffic circle makes more sense to him.

“Of the two, I lean toward a traffic circle,” he said of the options.  “The plan without a traffic circle would add lanes and take more property.”

He added that widening the roads would also eliminate trees and would mean the removal of two buildings that are on the town’s historic registry.  It would also be more expensive than putting in a traffic circle, he said.

McClellan added that, despite those considerations, some citizens in the town would still like the NCDOT to widen the streets rather than put in a circle.

“Some people think that traffic circles are confusing,” he said.

The town will now wait on the decision from the state’s transportation department.

According to McClellan, it’s possible the Town Council might officially weigh in at some point with a vote on a resolution stating the preference of the Oak Ridge Town Council.  However, he added, in the end, the decision will be entirely up to the NCDOT.