Roundabouts would make some kind of footprint at either end of busy Green Street in Gainesville, but just how much and how it would affect property owners, officials say, are big unknowns right now.
“I’ve got lots of questions. I just need to know,” said Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce at 230 E.E. Butler Parkway in Gainesville.
The chamber, which sits where Green Street, E.E. Butler Parkway and Academy Street converge, has been a fixture at that busy traffic spot since the early 1960s.
The other roundabout under consideration by Gainesville and the Georgia Department of Transportation is at Thompson Bridge Road/Ga. 60 and Riverside Drive near the Gainesville Civic Center.
Concept drawings were unveiled at a Green Street Stakeholders meeting in November at the civic center.
They were produced as part of a study “to determine potential concepts for improvements to Green Street,” Gainesville Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky said last week. “This study did not include any specific project engineering; therefore, no specific right of way or property needs have been determined.”
Right of way “contacts (with property owners) would not be made until more thorough project engineering is complete,” he added.
Still, Dunlap and others know improvements are needed. DOT traffic counts show an average of 34,700 vehicles travel Green Street every day.
“We’ve got to do something, absolutely,” she said. “There are days when we can’t even get out of our parking lot.”
said David Morrison, Brenau University spokesman, who added that Brenau’s “front door to the campus” is just off the planned roundabout at E.E. Butler. That area includes landscaped walkways leading to an iconic stone column archway featuring school names.
“I think (the roundabout) will have some impact on us,” he said. “We just don’t know what kind.”
Morrison added, however, the roundabout could potentially help traffic access to the campus.
“In theory, it could be very good for us,” he said. “We just have to wait and watch. The city has kept us in the loop. We’re just eagerly waiting to see what they come up with.”
Norman Baggs, general manager of The Times at 345 Green St., said that, “as a business operating on Green Street for a long time, we certainly know the severity of the traffic issues.
“Our business is unique on the street in that it has a full manufacturing component that requires a lot of truck traffic, and any roundabout or median will have to allow for that. We look forward to seeing a final plan to see how those issues can be addressed as part of an overall effort to improve traffic flow.”
Gainesville itself is a property owner that would be affected by the projects.
“With the concepts that have been presented, we would expect some impacts to the front parking area and lawn of the civic center property,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said.
Other property owners off the roundabouts either couldn’t be reached for comment or declined comment, saying they knew too little about the project.
Dunlap said she has seen how other area roundabouts have been successful, “but I haven’t seen one at that busy a place” as what would be built on Green Street.
Anne Chenault, a Riverside Drive resident who has been outspoken about city traffic improvements, said she believes the roundabout at Riverside and Ga. 60 is a “bad idea.”
“Large trucks need to come up the hill from Thompson Bridge, and I don’t think large trucks can utilize a roundabout as well as cars, unless the diameter is made much larger, impinging once again on a residential area,” she said.
Chenault added: “The noise as trucks accelerate is also disturbing in a residential area, and there probably will not be any restricted hours for truck traffic or siren screeching. It is already bad enough from the use of (nearby) Enota Avenue.”
Frank Norton Jr., whose business, The Norton Agency, sits off Green Street, also has been vocal about proposed fixes on the corridor.
“I’m excited about the roundabouts,” he said. “I think that’s a good solution. I’ve used them in other countries. It does take a little bit of thinking and getting used to, but they do seem to move traffic fairly fast.”
He’s more concerned about proposed fixes on Green Street between the roundabouts, including adding width to each of the traffic lanes, a 5-foot median and slimmer, possibly “meandering,” sidewalks on either side.
It’s work that could require 8 feet of right of way on either side of Green Street.
Concept drawings also show work along Green Street between the roundabouts “that could ruin the ambience and character of the street,” Norton said.
Otherwise, roundabouts have become a trendy piece of infrastructure in Hall County.
A single-lane roundabout opened this fall at Sardis and Ledan roads in northwest Hall County, and a single-lane roundabout opened last year in Flowery Branch.
The DOT also is planning to include a single-lane roundabout as part of widening Lanier Islands Parkway/Ga. 347 from McEver Road to Lanier Islands resort in South Hall.