Concerns about a roundabout dominated Thursday’s Department of Transportation meeting on the planned final phase of Ga. 347 construction in South Hall County.
Widening of the road is needed because of traffic projections that show the roadway will be unable to operate efficiently, according to the DOT. In addition, the large number of turns expected would further degrade the roadway, according to a summary provided at the meeting.
The project, running between McEver Road and Lake Lanier Islands Resort, will contain three lanes, with the center one a continuous turning lane, according to DOT’s district spokeswoman, Teri Pope. The 45-mph road will be bounded by a 10-foot multiuse path on the south side and 5-foot sidewalks on the northbound side.
A raised median immediately beyond the entrance to the resort will signal the beginning of the roadway that will deviate from the existing roadbed and lead to a roundabout to protect a cemetery associated with Lanier Islands Community Church at 6302 Lanier Islands Parkway.
According to Pope, diverting the road and creating an oversized roundabout was the best option because the existing road does not have enough land for appropriate setbacks to protect the cemetery.
“It’s an architectural resource protected by federal law,” said Pope. “This was the best option.”
Existing right-of-way along Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway varies between 60 and 100 feet; 100 feet would be required for widening the original roadbed.
A roundabout is different from a traffic circle, Pope said. In the U.S., cars entering a roundabout must yield to traffic already navigating the circle. The term “traffic circle” maintains either more formal traffic controls or none.
Portions of the original road will remain for local use, connected to the new Ga. 347 by intersections. Maintenance of the original road is expected to shift to the county, a DOT representative said.
The former road will also contain two cul-de-sacs for access to the new road, Pope said. A small stretch of the existing road, fronting two residential properties, will be permanently closed, but each parcel will have a revised access to the former road, she said.
Questions about the roundabout from the some 120 people attending centered primarily on its circumference, and requests for assurance that oversized vehicles, including those towing houseboats, for example, would be able to successfully navigate it.
“The roundabout has been designed,” said Pope, “for those vehicles and those trailers.”
Much larger than a typical roundabout, this one will have a total diameter of 140 feet with a 20-foot lane, and 20 additional feet of concrete for “grace,” Pope said.
“A typical lane is 12 feet wide,” she said.
The center portion will span 60 feet and be planted with grass. Traffic will yield upon entry to the roundabout while moving in a counterclockwise direction.
An Aqualand Marina representative, who declined to be identified, said he did not believe this project would mean more than, perhaps, moving a fence. He did want assurance the marina’s signage would remain visible.
One couple said they’ve been attending meetings about a proposed road revision since the early 1980s and are pleased to see an original plan containing a concrete median was not selected.
Bud Amerson, who lives immediately off the original roadway, was pleased to the see new plans.
“Anything is better than what we have right now,” Amerson said.
He is a huge fan of Lake Lanier Islands’ Magical Nights of Lights, he said, but he and his wife were often housebound during its evening showings due to congestion.
“But,” he said, “I’m glad to be a little inconvenienced. It means everything to the joy in those children’s eyes.”
Amerson did express minor concern over potential detours.
“There will not be any detours,” said Pope, but there will be lane shifts and some business entrances will need to be graveled during construction. Pope said construction will not impede traffic during the resort’s holiday light tour. No lanes will be closed from the Monday prior to Thanksgiving to Jan. 2, she said.
The 2.4-mile stretch will undergo right-of-way acquisition in fiscal 2014, which runs from July to June, at a cost of $5.1 million. In fiscal 2015, construction, at a cost of $15.5 million, will begin and take approximately two years, Pope said. Completion is ultimately dependent upon the weather, she said.
For those unable to attend the open house, written comments will be accepted until Oct. 24. Comments should be directed to Mr. Glenn Bowman, P.E., State Environmental Administrator, Georgia Department of Transportation, 600 W. Peachtree St., NW, 16th floor, Atlanta, GA 30308.
Comments may also be made online by visiting www.dot.ga.gov and clicking on “public outreach” from the information center menu at the top right side of the page. All comments will be made part of the project record.
Displays and plans will be available for review for 10 days after the open house at DOT’s Gainesville area office at 2594 Gillsville Highway, Gainesville, GA 30507. A copy of all comments will also be available there as well as in Atlanta, once compiled.