City council approves two roundabouts near Columbia elementary school

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COLUMBIA – City council members approved the construction of two new roundabouts near Mill Creek Elementary School following a public hearing. 

Multiple Columbia residents voiced their concerns on the now-approved intersections on Nifong Boulevard and Sinclair Road and Nifong Boulevard/Vawter School Road and Old Mill Creek Road/Country Woods Road. The intersection on Nifong and Sinclair is currently a four-way stop and is next to Mill Creek Elementary. The roundabouts will be single lane and 120 feet in diameter.

Bill Mees, a resident of a neighborhood adjacent to the intersections, said he thinks the new roundabout could improve the traffic flow in the intersection.

“It backs up a long ways, and there is a lot of traffic in the morning because of the school,” Mees said. “I think [roundabouts] are great if they are large enough so that they can accommodate the traffic.”

The initial proposition was a part of a 10-year plan for the 0.25 percent Capital Improvement Sales Tax ballot initiative passed in August 2015. The city had a traffic study done by CBB Traffic and Transportation Engineers for the intersection in December 2016 and January 2017. The study concluded a roundabout would be most effective at that particular intersection.

The proposal took into account the projected traffic increase for the next 20 years, which estimates a 1 percent traffic increase per year. This also included the potential addition of a new middle school and a 200-home subdivision on Sinclair Road. 

Mees does, however, have concerns about the size of the roundabout, and whether or not it will be able to accommodate the school buses traveling to Mill Creek Elementary and the future middle school.

“It needs to be large enough to accommodate all of that without causing any more traffic disruption,” Mees said. "There is going to be a lot of bus traffic, and it needs to be large enough for the bus drivers to be able to maneuver it easily.”

Columbia residents who spoke at the meeting voiced additional concerns, which included sidewalk safety outside of Mill Creek Elementary School and traffic flow out of neighborhood streets.  

Though the roundabouts are single lane roadways, they will have the potential to be expanded to a partial double-lane if Nifong Boulevard is widened to four lanes in the future. The estimated cost for the roundabout is $986,876.

The approved road construction also included traffic light options, according to the Department of Public Works memo for Monday evening’s meeting. The roundabouts, however, were cheaper than the traffic signal alternative, which was projected to cost around $1,263,172.

The approved construction is expected to begin in 2019.