The NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has approved plans for a new NC 58 roundabout to be constructed at the intersection of Mallard Drive / Emerald Landing Drive, and the new roundabout will be constructed this winter. The new roundabout is being financed and constructed by the new Publix grocery store that is expected to open in spring 2018.
The new roundabout is specifically designed to promote the efficient movement of traffic instead of a new traffic signal, and includes design features approved by NCDOT to enhance safety, allow pedestrian crossings in a safe manner, and create "breaks" in traffic flow to allow for side-street traffic to enter the roundabout. The roundabout construction will be supplemented with additional street and sidewalk improvements along Emerald Landing Drive and Crew Drive.
NCDOT has recommended the installation of roundabouts at 4 other NC 58 intersections in Emerald Isle. The new Publix roundabout was endorsed by the Board of Commissioners as a "pilot project" to enable the community and the Board to further evaluate the effectiveness of roundabouts for the other proposed locations in Emerald Isle in the future. Town officials expect to continue to work with NCDOT in the coming years to implement traffic improvements along NC 58 in Emerald Isle, potentially including the additional roundabouts recommended by NCDOT -- if the new Publix roundabout is effective. Essentially, the Town's experience with the new Publix roundabout will likely guide future decisions regarding roundabouts in Emerald Isle.
The Town's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, adopted by the Board of Commissioners after more than a year-long process to gather public input, notes that the Town does not support traffic improvements that will hinder safe and convenient access between the ocean side and sound side, and the widening of NC 58 and the Emerald Isle bridge from the current 2 and 3 lanes to 4 or 5 lanes is contrary to this policy. This has been the Town's official position since at least 2004, and is also based on significant public input that the character of Emerald Isle would be harmed if a 4 or 5 lane road divided the ocean and sound sides of the Town. In the absence of additional lanes, there are limited options available to promote the more efficient movement of traffic along NC 58, and NCDOT believes that the proposed roundabouts can lead to incremental improvement in traffic flow in Emerald Isle.
Of course, no solution, including additional lanes, will ever fully eliminate traffic congestion in Emerald Isle, as it continues to be a highly desirable residential and tourism destination. However, the Town, in partnership with NCDOT, continues to work hard to identify any incremental improvements that can be helpful in the future. The new Publix roundabout is a part of this ongoing effort.