Now, at a time when one is forced to sit and contemplate one’s navel, it may be a propitious time to rethink some of our more vexing traffic issues.
Here in Pinehurst two traffic situations quickly come to mind. One is the overburdened Traffic Circle on N.C. 211 and the other is the continuing increase in traffic flows on N.C. 5 (Beulah Hill Road) from 211 heading south to U.S. 1 in Aberdeen. It has been a persistent issue for decades, made more complicated by the fact that all traffic is limited to just two lanes at a narrow railroad overpass.
The state has plans to widen N.C. 5 to four lanes from Linden Road south to U.S. 1 in Aberdeen. North of Linden, it is essentially boxed in with a railroad right of way on one side and golf courses and other substantial development on the other.
In 2009, when a small roundabout was installed on Cherokee Road and Carolina Vista at the entrance to the Pinehurst Golf and Country Club, an engineering firm was hired by Pinehurst to study traffic on nearby N.C. 5. It reported that traffic on that road had increased 10 percent in the previous 10 years and was expected to increase by at least another 10 percent from that time on every decade.
Although it was not asked to do so by Pinehurst, the company analyzed the matter and provided to Pinehurst a detailed sketch showing how that ever-increasing traffic could be ameliorated. The sketch was of a roundabout where N.C. 5 and Cherokee Road — also known as N.C. 2 — and McKenzie Road West intersect. There is a traffic light there now. The recommended roundabout would eliminate that light and allow traffic to flow smoothly ad infinitum.
I do not know if the State Department of Transportation ever saw or considered that suggested design. I have also not been able to determine if Pinehurst’s staff, police or elected officials ever reviewed the plan. But I do know that as more housing develops adjacent to N.C. 5 in Aberdeen, that important roadway will soon become unbearably crowded for cars and trucks.
The N.C. 5 issue has been discussed for years and just recently by Pinehurst’s government. Mayor John Strickland has said, “Our residents expect us to do something about it. The village manager has recommended that the village undertake a comprehensive study to come up with a “range of options of what we can do to protect N.C. 5 from becoming a parking lot.”
Planning Board Chairman Leo Santowasso has urged the council to “hire an outside professional firm to help the council get its head around such a complex problem.”
My suggestion is that the village ask DOT to expedite building a roundabout where traffic professionals recommended 11 years ago.
The other major traffic issue involves the large Pinehurst Traffic Circle located on N.C. 211. This is an iconic and historic intersection that has become increasingly crowded and often dangerous at peak traffic hours.
Fortunately, DOT’s project number U-5976 is currently scheduled for construction to start there in 2026. It is still early in the development stage. Various concept options have been discussed with village officials, but I am told nothing has been designed. Although the Traffic Circle is currently unlit, DOT advises that a future design “could include street lighting.”
I would hope that any design would continue to feature a large wooded area to grace the scene as it has for decades. I favor the addition of lighting because significant research has proven that lighting at such intersections improves safety. A detailed study of roundabouts in Minnesota showed that between 2003 and 2010 roundabouts with no illumination had an average observed crash rate of 0.458 crashes per million, compared to 0.285 for roundabouts with partial illumination and 0.193 for roundabouts with full lighting.
Pinehurst officials have spent a great deal of time talking about its traffic problems. I hope they will not decide to hire more consultants, as Pinehurst so often does, but will instead work closely with DOT to find meaningful and quick solutions to them. Delay is no longer a viable option.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.