It was a small turnout Thursday night for a meeting on Hanes Mill Road improvements, but the changes could be pretty big.

One alternate plan shows a roundabout at Museum Drive across from the entrance to the United Furniture Industries plant, but state officials will look at the possibility of adding additional roundabouts where the U.S. 52 ramps intersect Hanes Mill Road.

Not counting turn lanes, Hanes Mill Road would be widened to two lanes in each direction from in front of the furniture plant to Summit Square Boulevard on the east side of University Parkway, with medians to separate the traffic flow.

The state plans to start work on the project in 2021. The project has an estimated price tag of $9 million, not counting another $2.6 million for buying rights of way and relocating utility lines. The state plans to acquire rights of way in 2019.

The road is badly congested, said Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County.

“There are a lot of turnings on Hanes Mill Road,” Ivey said. “A lot of people use that road as an alternative to University Parkway. We are really glad that we are finally at the point to get this done.”

The state had a drop-in session Thursday evening at Bethany Baptist Church, showing diagrams of how the widened road would look and inviting people to make comments.

A key to the project is the replacement of the bridge over U.S. 52 at the intersection so that the new bridge can accommodate four lanes of traffic.

The intersection of Hanes Mill Road and University Parkway would grow, with the addition of double left-turn lanes for drivers going north from Hanes Mill to University, and the same for drivers going south from University to Hanes Mill Road east.

The intersection would also have dedicated right-turn lanes in all directions.

But the biggest change could be the alternative plan that puts a roundabout on Hanes Mill near Kaleideum North, the former SciWorks museum.

Ivey said while officials haven’t decided yet whether the roundabout is the top choice, “we believe that roundabouts work well, and probably work best long-term” for the intersection.

The alternative to a roundabout would be a traffic signal.

Robert Cottam, spokesman for United Furniture, came to look at the plans and said he just wants the alternative that works best for traffic.

“I’m not a traffic guy,” Cottam said, “I just want to make sure our trucks get in.”

Hanes Mill Road currently has no signals where the ramps to and from U.S. 52 join, but the proposed widening has signals on both sides of the bridge to regulate the ramp traffic. Ivey said that can be avoided, though, if the state decides to put traffic circles there as well.

Some people who turned out to look at the plans simply wanted to know if the widening would take their properties. The state will have to buy some properties on the north side of Hanes Mill Road near University.

LuAnn Foutz, who lives on Sunburst Circle found out that the plans don’t affect her house, but said she hopes the project boosts her property value so that she can sell.

“I like the roundabouts,” she said, commenting on the plans. “The traffic has been a problem, but it has gotten worse as more businesses have come around.”

Ivey said that when the widening project begins, the bridge work will be done in phases so that the bridge and interchange with U.S. 52 could remain open.

As well, the bridge over U.S. 52 will be built wide enough to accommodate the eventual widening of U.S. 52 to six lanes.

Ivey said that the state would decide over the next couple of months whether to pursue any of the roundabout options.

People can make comments about the project until March 1 by email or mail.

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