We get it, your home is your investment. And the type of road that runs in front of or alongside your property can have a significant impact on its value. Not many homeowners want to live beside a roaring roadway!
“Superstreets” are the latest threat to homeowners who just want peace and quiet. As land condemnation attorneys in NC, we often represent property owners who live along roads that are being widened or changed, and these changes often affect their homes or businesses. This article breaks down the nuances of superstreets and how an attorney can help you if your property is affected by the construction of one.
Superstreets are a type of intersection between a major road and a minor road that provide an alternative route to drivers on the minor road who wish to proceed straight across the major road or turn left onto it. Below, we’ll explain what a superstreet is in more detail, and why NCDOT is building so many in NC.
When two roads cross each other, you get an interchange. In a “typical” red light/green light intersection, you can turn right, left, or go straight from any direction.
The superstreet concept is an alternative to this type of intersection.
In a superstreet intersection scenario, roads joining the superstreet can only turn right onto it. To turn left and travel in the other direction, drivers must first turn right and then make a U-turn. Superstreets are also called restricted crossing U-turns (RCUT), J-turns, and reduced conflict intersections (RCI).
While the superstreet design looks complicated, planners often prefer it because it simplifies the number of choices for drivers – minimizing the conflict points at an intersection.
A typical intersection may have as many as 32 potential conflict points, while a superstreet only has 14.
Since intersections have long been a trouble spot for motorists and are often the scene of some of the most devastating accidents, NCDOT engineers hope that by reducing the number of conflict points, they might reduce the number of accidents.
It seems they are right.
In 1997, the NCDOT converted the NC 87 bypass to North Carolina’s first superstreet. In the three years prior to opening it, the bypass was the scene of 24 crashes, resulting in 21 injury cases.
For the three-year span after the bypass was converted, there was a remarkable drop to only two crashes and zero injury cases, according to the NCDOT.
Analyzing data over a seven-year period, the NCDOT estimated that superstreets reduce collisions by 46%.
Superstreets are also considered safer for pedestrians because traffic patterns are easier to predict since drivers have fewer options (conflict points).
In addition to the improved safety (reduced likelihood of crashes and threats to crossing pedestrians), superstreets are appealing to NCDOT for three other reasons:
While superstreets may have benefits, they can cause problems for homeowners who are in the way of the project. Building a new superstreet (or converting an existing street into one) can require right-of-way acquisition, which means the government may take the land needed for the project from private owners using a process called eminent domain.
If your property is in danger of being taken, we strongly recommend that you get a free case evaluation with an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as possible. In our experience, the government may undervalue your property and offer you less than what you may deserve. And, without guidance, it’s easy to miss important deadlines or accidentally take steps that can’t be reversed.
If your property is affected by a superstreet project, our firm can help you navigate the eminent domain process and fight for the compensation you deserve by:
At the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm, we have four eminent domain attorneys who have worked for the NCDOT, and they may be able to use that inside experience and knowledge to your benefit. Our attorneys have more than 80 years of combined experience trying many different kinds of cases throughout North Carolina.
We’re happy to review your case to see if you’re being treated fairly. If we take your case, we do not charge you an hourly fee. Instead, we collect a contingency fee at the end of the case, which is a percentage of the total amount that we may secure for you above the amount the NCDOT offered you. If we do not recover additional compensation over what the government offered you, there is no attorney’s fee.
Safety and efficiency are always a priority when planning communities, towns, and cities. From the street designs to sidewalks, bus stops, and crosswalks, engineers consider many factors before handing over their blueprints to the builders.
Thanks to innovative research and design, modern street designs have been improving the welfare and community aspect of the places we live, work, learn, and play.
Yet for property and business owners whose land is taken for the streets or for a right of way, it can become a financial burden.
Here, we offer a bit of information on four street designs you may have seen being constructed in North Carolina towns and communities. And we offer information on what you can do if your property lies in the NCDOT’s crosshairs when building these new street designs.
Superstreets are designed primarily to try to eliminate the dangers of left turns at intersections. Their construction has been proven to result in significantly faster travel times and a reduced percentage of drivers involved in accidents.
Superstreets help to prevent left-turn accidents by forcing traffic on a side road to first turn right and then access a U-turn lane to turn left. Traffic on the main road can turn left directly.
While having to first turn right then make a U-turn to turn left may seem time-consuming and inconvenient, it actually results in a significant time savings since drivers do not have to wait to make left-hand turns or for traffic from cross-streets to go across the intersection, according to a North Carolina State University study. This study on the superstreet is the largest study ever conducted regarding the impact superstreets have on travel time and safety. Not only did the study show a 20% reduction in travel time over conventional traffic designs, it found that superstreet intersections experience an average of 46% percent fewer reported automobile collisions and 63% percent fewer collisions that result in personal injury.
Superstreets have been shown to be so effective in reducing accidents and improving travel time that five of them were incorporated as a part of the U.S. 17 upgrades near Wilmington.
Unfortunately, for some business owners on the path of a street that is redesigned as a superstreet, the drawbacks can be significant. Some customers may no longer want to make that U-turn to go visit the business or store.
A continuous flow intersection (CFI), sometimes referred to as a displaced left-turn intersection, is an innovative design to help improve safety and mobility by redirecting some or all left turns at a major signalized intersection. As you can see from the video below, vehicles turning left cross into dedicated left-turn bays turning onto the cross street. The primary advantage is that traffic turning left and through traffic happen simultaneously. This helps reduce delays at intersections and increase safety by reducing the number of conflict points at the intersection.
Complete streets aim to offer improved traffic control by providing ramps that are cut into curbs to allow wheelchairs and strollers to cross the street with ease, as well as wider sidewalks and pedestrian areas, bus turn-off lanes, bike lanes, buffer zones, and greenery. Utilities are buried underground to make room for pedestrians. Environmentally friendly lighting is key, as is signage that can be seen by all travelers.
Yet someone’s property often has to be taken to make room for these new complete streets. Our eminent domain attorneys have been working with landowners since 2012 to help them try to get paid for the highest and best use of the property being taken.
Many people think roundabouts and traffic circles are the same, but that’s not the case – although they do serve similar purposes. Roundabouts and traffic circles are commonly mistaken as the same thing because of their identical circular shape, but they have very distinct differences.
Traffic circles are typically larger than roundabouts and are designed to settle the flow of traffic in an aesthetically pleasing design. They also have stop signs and are typically utilized in areas with speeds greater than 25 mph.
Roundabouts are smaller than traffic circles and offer a four-way intersection or junction in which traffic flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island. There are no stop signs and each car yields. Roundabouts are designed for traffic traveling less than 25 mph.
Here are some of the primary distinctions of traffic circles and roundabouts.
Land takings and easements for these street designs (or any road construction project) can have a devastating impact on property and business owners. When the government exercises its right of eminent domain to take property needed to build a street, the property owners don’t have to simply accept whatever the government initially offers.
The government is required to pay fair compensation for what it takes and for the damage to the remaining property. Further, while a project may benefit the community or property owners as a whole, every property is unique, and some may experience more significant damages than others.
Our team has 85+ years of combined experience working on eminent cases. We have represented property owners who live along streets that are being redesigned and near intersections that are being changed, and we know how these changes often affect their homes or businesses. And we have seen the government undervalue properties and offer property owners less than what they potentially deserved.
We have the resources, experience, and relationships to help protect your rights as a property owner and fight for the highest potential compensation. In fact, since we have been in business, our firm has increased the average offer for our clients by 207.9%.1
Get a free case evaluation From the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm
If your property is on the NCDOT’s radar for any reason, we strongly urge you to talk with one of our experienced eminent domain attorneys. Our attorneys (several of whom used to work on behalf of the NCDOT) will evaluate your case for FREE. Complete the form on this page to contact us, or call 1-877-393-4990.
Sometimes it may seem as though, if you are a business owner in North Carolina, the eminent domain laws are stacked against you. Many of our business clients would agree. That is why they came to us.
Two of us used to work as Assistant Attorneys General for the state representing the NCDOT. Why did we leave the NCDOT to go to work fighting for individual property owners? We saw too many property owners, business owners in particular, leaving good money on the bargaining table. And we wanted to do something about it.
While it is true businesses can often face a tougher uphill climb with respect to getting paid for damages to their property, this is by no means done on purpose. Rather it is an unfortunate result in how North Carolina’s eminent domain laws have been cobbled together over many years – some dating back to the early part of the 20th century when we were still an agricultural state. Our state has grown so fast, particularly over the last couple of decades, some laws and statutes that probably should not be on the books, still remain. And some can cause harm to the property owner.
That is why we suggest business owners in particular seek experienced eminent domain legal guidance if their business property is in the state’s crosshairs.
When the state files condemnation papers against your property, here are some of the non-compensable issues business owners need to pay particular attention to. We have gotten exceptions for our clients in many cases.1 But you need to know someone who is very familiar with the laws and types of evidence needed to overcome many of these types of objections.
Sometimes we have been able to help commercial and industrial property owners by negotiating plan changes to the NCDOT project, like additional or wider access points*. This has occasionally helped maintain business momentum. These types of negotiations usually require extremely thorough knowledge, not only of NC’s dusty cobwebs of eminent domain laws, but sometimes, the type of knowledge and information that can come from having worked on their side – and, quite frankly, knowing many of the people involved.
We’ve drawn on our combined 85+ years of experience to help increase the average offer for our clients by 207.9%1 since we’ve been in business.
The concept of Complete Streets is pretty simple. It’s a roadway that is functionally and aesthetically designed for everyone including cyclists and pedestrians – not just cars, trucks, and busses. That’s why they are called “complete” streets.
East Blvd., Charlotte. Courtesy: CompletestreetsNC.org
It’s a fairness for all concept – except those whose properties lie in their pathways.
If your property is affected by one of North Carolina’s proliferating Complete Streets projects, things may be far from “fair” from your perspective. Here, we explain why the NCDOT is suddenly interested in constructing Complete Streets in North Carolina, and what you can do if your property is needed for one.
In 2009, new NCDOT roadway policy changes mandated that, going forward, when they design new streets, the agency must consider all modes of transportation as they relate to safety, mobility, and accessibility.
As more of us become more conscientious of our own health and that of the earth and its environment, many are seeking ways to replace their carbon footprint with their actual footprint by driving less and walking more. Still others enjoy taking the bus or bicycling to work or to run errands. For many, Complete Streets are deemed to be a safer, healthier, and more equitable means of getting from point A to point B.
Complete Streets aim to offer improved traffic control by providing new ramps that are cut into curbs to allow wheelchairs and strollers to cross the street with ease, as well as wider sidewalks and pedestrian areas, bus turn off lanes, and bike lanes. Utilities must be buried underground to make room for pedestrians. Environmentally friendly lighting is key, as is signage that can be seen by all travelers.
Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, and Durham are just some of areas where Complete Streets are making an impact in the Tar Heel State. Charlotte is considered a leader nationwide in the development of Complete Streets, according to the Charlotte Department of Transportation.
There are economic benefits too. In addition to traffic control, Complete Streets have had positive economic impacts on local economies and businesses. Smart Growth America reports that Complete Streets can help stimulate the local economy through more business traffic, spur private investment, and raise property values.
Savings from biking, walking, or taking public transit has saved $2.3 billion in Chicago and $19 billion a year in New York City. This adds up to money people can (and have) put right back into the local economy by way of housing, restaurants, and entertainment. The site also suggests that the time employees spend stuck in traffic congestion costs businesses too. In the San Francisco Bay Area sitting in traffic costs the city over $2 billion a year, and in Los Angeles $1.1 billion.
All that foot and bicycle traffic is a boon for local businesses. The NCDOT reported that the Hillsboro Complete Street design near NC State University in Raleigh led to a 42% increase in retail business. Smart Growth America found all six North Carolina Complete Streets projects they surveyed that looked at business effects, reported higher sales.
When the formerly neglected Washington, D.C., neighborhood, Barracks Row, underwent a Complete Streets redesign, the $8 million public investment generated additional $8 million in private money for local businesses. The result? Gentrification and 32 new businesses bringing in roughly $80,000 tax revenue annually.
Proponents say that Complete Streets can lead to streets that are safe and accessible whether walking or riding bikes, and this, alone, can help raise property values. One North Carolina neighborhood saw property values rise $5,000 after a bike path was added.
Land takings and easements for Complete Streets, Superstreets, or any road construction project is a necessary evil. What we want property owners to know is that when the government exercises their right of eminent domain to take property needed to build a street, the property owners don’t have to simply take whatever the government initially offers. The government is required to pay fair compensation for what it takes and for the damage to the remaining property. Further, while a project may benefit the community or property owners as a whole, every property is unique, and some may experience more significant damages than others.
Based on our 25+ years of combined experience, the government may undervalue your property and offer you less than what you potentially deserve. Without experienced legal guidance, it’s easy to accidentally take steps that may not be in your favor and can’t be reversed.
If your property is on the NCDOT’s radar for a Complete Street or for any reason, we strongly urge you to talk with an eminent domain attorney. Our attorneys (several of whom used to work on behalf of the NCDOT) will review your case for FREE.
Eminent domain is the power which the government or authorized entity uses to take your private property. It’s also known as “condemnation” or “land condemnation.” The eminent domain power in America comes from the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, and the North Carolina Constitution also permits it through NC General Statutes 40A & 136.
You can divide the process of eminent domain into two elements: taking and compensation.
The government does not take – or authorize the taking of – your property on a whim. Before you’re ever likely aware that your property is targeted, there are many steps that must be taken before the government can take it.
Before anything else can happen, your property cannot be taken without authority. The government, as we said above, has the power to take your property.
For example, the government may decide that the road by your house needs to be widened or converted into a superstreet, a highway connector needs to be built through your land, a new library must be erected, or an easement is needed for drainage. In all of these cases, the government is the “condemning authority,” and in North Carolina, the majority of eminent domain takings are by the Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
The government can also empower other entities to take your property, like utilities and communications companies.
For example, if your energy or communications provider needs to put up poles or bury wires or pipes, they may invoke the power of eminent domain. Either way, the process they must follow is very similar.
There are two requirements that must be satisfied for the government to take your property:
The ‘public use’ requirement is somewhat vague, and continues to be challenged in court. For example, in a case from back in the 1890s, the government denied a railroad company’s public use claim to land that was designated a historic battlefield. In the 1980s, the City of Oakland, CA was defeated when it tried to condemn the Oakland Raiders football team.
Once they have targeted your property, the condemning authority will do a couple of things.
Payment of ‘just compensation’ for your property involves many different moving parts. Usually, the condemning authority wants to take as little as possible because they want to pay as little as possible.
Once the plans are completed the government stakes your property and sends out an appraiser to calculate damages. The appraisal is provided to the right of way agent for them to negotiate the claim.
It is generally not a good idea to accept the government’s first offer, because if you take the money offered, they take your property, and the eminent domain process ends.
If you refuse the offer, the process continues.
Under North Carolina law, the condemning authority will file its lawsuit stating the public use for which your property is being acquired, and including its deposit of just compensation for the taking. Once these steps are completed, your claim is now in the condemnation phase.
Technically, yes. This sounds scary, but it’s simply a legal formality in the process of eminent domain. If you do not agree with the condemning authority’s offer, they file their complaint (technically a lawsuit) with the clerk of court in the county where the property is located. They also serve you notice, and deposit the funds from their offer with the clerk. Two things that are important to know here:
This second part of the eminent domain process is all about you getting the fairest possible compensation for your property. As is often the case, this also involves rules, deadlines, and a few moving parts. You have the opportunity to try to increase the offer, but there are many ways you can damage that opportunity (or lose it altogether).
You usually have one year from the date you received notice of the condemnation lawsuit, but you may have only 120 days in some cases. If you do not respond within the time allowed in your case, you waive your right to argue for more compensation.
Note that you must file an official “Answer” with the court which states your disagreement with the offer amount, and request a jury trial.
Also remember that, while all of this is happening, the condemning authority officially owns the property they took and can begin working on it!
Usually, no. You have the right to challenge the taking, and that’s usually a challenge against the public use or public benefit tests. However, these cases rarely succeed. Your best bet is likely to seek maximum compensation for the taking.
You have to gather evidence and show why your property is worth more, or damaged more, than is reflected in the offer you received from the taking authority. The condemning authority will have appraisers and lawyers working hard on their side to try to get your property for the lowest price – we know because three of our attorneys once worked for the NCDOT.
Many of the steps you can take on your own aren’t as helpful as you think, and can even harm your case. This portion of the process of eminent domain is where many property owners ultimately fail.
A qualified eminent domain lawyer can fight to try to get you fair compensation, and can try to make sure that the condemning authority is not abusing eminent domain statutes and that your land or home isn’t being taken for questionable reasons. We know the process, the methods, and the decision makers involved.
If you have been notified that the government wants to take your property, contact the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm to find out if one of our qualified North Carolina eminent domain lawyers may be able to help you.
Call 1-877-393-4990 for a free evaluation of your case. Our eminent domain lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that if we don’t recover any additional compensation for your property above what the government has offered you, we don’t collect an attorney’s fee. On average, our firm has increased our clients’ original offer by 202%.*
*Each case is different and must be evaluated separately. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Average based on each case’s increase as of 12/31/20.