Public parking and better traffic flow played the biggest roles in the Surf City Town Council’s choice of a roundabout for the town.
A majority of the town council voted Feb. 4 to support a three-legged roundabout, one of two options N.C. Department of Transportation officials say would be viable traffic patterns tied in with the new, high-rise bridge.
“The three-legged roundabout allows for more efficient traffic movement,” Councilman Buddy Fowler said. “Pedestrian traffic will be safer. It also allows more parking.”
The other option – a roundabout with four entrances and exits – would reduce existing public parking spaces. The three-legged roundabout will create anywhere from 15 to 35 additional parking spaces, Fowler said.
Jim Williams, the manager of Surf City IGA, said his chief concern with the four-legged roundabout is that it will reduce existing parking available to the public.
“One of the jewels of Topsail Island is that we don’t have to pay for parking,” he said.
Supporters of the four-legged roundabout argued in a public hearing Tuesday that the option the board chose may hurt businesses along North Topsail Drive, which will essentially be turned into a dead-end street if a three-legged roundabout is constructed.
“I just feel that we’re putting an excessive amount of traffic through New River Drive,” said Paul Dorazio, owner of Maebilt Construction, a business on North Topsail Drive. “With the four-legged you’re at least going to send 30 to 40 percent of traffic down North Topsail Drive. This is the business district and to just cut us off I feel is going to be bad for the business community.”
Sugar Island Bakery co-owner Shawn Smith agreed. His business is also one of about 15 along North Topsail Drive.
“We’re concerned about losing a good bit of the traffic that’s going by us,” he said.
Fowler said that Topsail Drive would still have two-way traffic, just different entry points.
“In looking at this and trying to peer into the future; we do not know what businesses will be in the business here five years from now, 10 years from now or 12 years from now,” he said.
Councilman Don Helms did not support the three-legged roundabout.
Mayor Zander Guy reminded residents that the board was making its recommendation, which may not be the option DOT officials choose to build.
DOT officials decided about a year ago to replace the existing swing bridge, which is more than 50 years old, with a fixed high-rise to improve traffic flow for motorists on Roland Avenue and boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Construction is set to start in 2017.