The Town of Oak Ridge is finding this out about traffic circles: Some people love them and some people hate them.
Drivers in that town have strong opinions about traffic circles and one of the first items that the Town Council will address after the start of the New Year is whether Oak Ridge should create two circles to aid traffic flow in areas where road use has been growing.
Oak Ridge Town Councilmember George McClellan said town leaders have been in talks with officials with the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and are expecting to see two plans for addressing congestion. One of those will call for two traffic circles.
Like much of northwestern Guilford County, Oak Ridge has been growing and heavily visited retail areas in town have gotten more crowded over the years and some type of road improvement is now considered necessary.
McClellan said people in the town are divided on the proposed traffic circles.
“Boy, it kind of depends on who you ask,” McClellan said.
He said he wants to hear all the arguments before he decides one way or the other for that town of about 7,000 residents.
“My official position is let’s wait and see,” he said.
McClellan said one of the traffic circles under consideration would go in at the busy intersection of NC-68 and NC-150, which is also known as Oak Ridge Road. That intersection is just about at the dead center of town.
According to McClellan, after the first of the year the DOT will bring two proposals for dealing with traffic issues: One that calls for two traffic circles and the other that addresses the town’s congestion in those spots in other ways. He said there will be a period of public feedback and a hearing at a Town Council meeting for citizens to speak on the matter. McClellan said the feedback process is likely to take place in January and February.
The town council will then vote on a recommendation.
He said that, in the past, the DOT has been very receptive to votes by the Town Council. For instance, he said, when the council has voted to lower speed limits, the DOT has complied.
According to McClellan, the goal is to have rational traffic patterns that maintain good vehicle flow and reduce confusion for drivers.
“I don’t want it to end up like Greensboro,” he said of that city’s completely unfathomable and constantly changing downtown traffic patterns.
“I don’t mean to be critical of Greensboro – but I guess I do,” he added, chuckling.
Most or the traffic circles are unnecessary or counter productive. The one High Point on Lindsay Street near main street has traffic backed up all the way around it when the Main Street traffic light is red. Cars can’t get through the circle to get into the left or right turn lanes until the light turns green and the straight ahead lane empties. Sometimes you have to wait through two red lights to make a turn. There are two on Finch Farm Road in Thomasville that only impedes what little traffic the road has.
It’s the red light that’s the problem, not the traffic circle.
Traffic circles allow you to proceed seamlessly and swiftly, as traffic allows, without sitting and staring at a red light, idling fruitlessly for a couple of minutes. Traffic circles are “smart” traffic management, never fail when the power’s out, and increase the effective traffic volume of any road.
Red Lights are “stupid” traffic management from 100 years ago.