Jan 142013
 

A city drawing shows what a roundabout may look like on West Fifth Street at the intersection of West 14th Avenue and Tyson Street.

A city drawing shows what a roundabout may look like on West Fifth Street at the intersection of West 14th Avenue and Tyson Street.

 

“There is going to be minimal displacement … and the business could get a better piece of property if it makes the swap.”

Chris Mansfield, Redevelopment Commission chairman

By Wesley Brown

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Plans to replace a set of stop lights on West Fifth Street with a safer and more environmentally friendly traffic circle may force a neighborhood car wash in west Greenville to relocate.

Greenville city officials have begun discussions with the property owner of Wash It — a cash-only car cleaning service at the corner of West 14th Avenue — to negotiate a land swap.

Talks have been ongoing for about six months as part of an effort by the Greenville Redevelopment Commission to improve the appearance and design of a four-block section of West Fifth Street with new sidewalks, bus shelters, bike paths, decorative trees and wall art.

The two-phase redesign is called the West Fifth Street Gateway Project. The commission this week added $13,500 to its existing $120,000 contract with Rivers and Associates for the local engineering firm to study and map out a roundabout at the intersection of Tyson Street and West 14th Avenue.

“I drive through that intersection probably twice a day, sometimes four times a day, and this really does seem to be a pretty good plan,” Chris Mansfield, chairman of the Redevelopment Commission, said. “There is going to be minimal displacement … and the business could get a better piece of property if it makes the swap.”

Under the preliminary terms of the land swap, the city would give up land it owns on West Fifth Street at the intersection of Sheppard Street — a block east of the car wash — to gain ownership of the property.

“It’s the same size,” Niki Jones, the lead city planner of the project, said of the property Greenville is offering. “If we did a land swap, they would still get a corner lot.”

Jones said if a swap could not be negotiated, another option is for the city to outright purchase the land, which tax records show has a current market value of $20,000. Neither the property owner, Jimmie A. Brown, or management of the car wash was available for comment on whether they would accept the offer or sell the land.

Jones said Rivers and Associates plans to study and draw two designs for a roundabout at the intersection, which the city, the state Department of Transportation and the Greenville Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission have approved to be bid once construction documents are finalized.

Early diagrams of the designs show the only difference between the two is the center of one will be positioned slightly further to the north. Each will include sidewalks, marked crossings and bike lanes to help protect an area of high-volume foot traffic with the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Center and Munchy’s Grill being nearby.

A growing trend

Roundabouts are deemed safer, cheaper to maintain and friendlier to the environment than traditional intersections, officials said.

Their designs have reduced harmful emissions by up to 30 percent — as there is less starting and stopping of traffic — and cut right-angle and head-on collisions in North Carolina in half, according to a report published by the state last year.

Hollie Allen, communications officer for the DOT, said on Friday that there are 200 roundabouts in North Carolina, most of them built in the last decade after the concept was imported from Europe in the early 1990s.

The traffic circle on West Fifth Street would become Greenville’s second, in addition to the one on Portertown Road.

Roundabouts are ring-shaped intersections through which traffic flows in a counterclockwise pattern. Cars entering a roundabout must yield to those already inside. Although it appears simple, some initially worry the measure may be confusing to navigate.

Jones said like all new traffic patterns, there may be a learning curve.

“It will be new and take some education,” Jones said. “But it is perfectly safe for pedestrians.”

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.

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