A common sight in Europe, roundabouts are catching on in the Hall County area as a way to move traffic and ease congestion.
Earlier this month, the Hall Board of Commissioners hired a Duluth firm, Moreland Altobelli Associates, to look at options, including a roundabout, at Sardis and Ledan roads in Northwest Hall.
But that’s hardly the area’s first brush with circular roadway.
A roundabout is operational at Lanier Technical College and University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus in South Hall.
And the only way to travel through the 1,100-acre Lanier Islands resort is by way of roundabouts.
“We are happy with the results of (the road system),” resort CEO Mike Williams said. “Traffic flow is smoother at the Islands, both for daily use and major events. Studies have also shown that roundabouts are safer. They create a much nicer ambience ... as well.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation also is planning one as part of the widening of Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway from the resort to McEver Road.
Also, one is under construction in Flowery Branch as part of the Lights Ferry Connector between McEver Road and Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway.
In Dawson County, the DOT is looking to build a double roundabout at Dawson Forest Road and Hwy. 9 South, Ga. 53 at Ga. 183/Elliott Family Parkway and Ga. 52 at Ga. 183 near Amicalola Fall State Park.
The DOT considers roundabouts “the preferred safety and operational alternative for a wide range of roadway intersections,” according to the agency’s Design Policy Manual.
The manual goes on to say they should be considered for any new intersection or at a crossing that needs to be rebuilt.
“Roundabouts can work well in high-volume areas,” DOT district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.
And that certainly can be said of Ledan at Sardis, which is especially busy before and after school.
The two-lane roads meet at a mostly rural crossing, but they lead to busy residential areas and main traffic arteries, including Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road and Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway.
And they also feed into Chestatee High School and Sardis Enrichment School, which are off Sardis, and Chestatee Academy, off nearby Fran Mar Drive.
A roundabout “would definitely help us,” said Chestatee High Principal Suzanne Jarrard.
That intersection falls on the route of the planned Sardis Connector, a long-discussed project that would carry traffic from Ga. 53 in West Hall to Ga. 60 in North Hall.
For those unfamiliar, single-lane roundabouts require motorists to travel in a circle around an intersection until they need to get onto the road where they need to keep moving, yielding to traffic only when they need get into the circle.
“People don’t like them because they don’t necessarily understand them,” said Brian Rochester, executive vice president of Rochester & Associates, a Gainesville land development firm that designed the roundabouts at Lanier Islands.
“But once they get used to them, if you came back and tried to take them away, there would be a revolt,” Rochester said.
The Gainesville-Hall County area’s long-range transportation plan calls for adding a traffic signal or roundabout on Oak Tree Drive, which runs between Ga. 11/Riverside Drive and Ga. 60 in Gainesville, between 2024 and 2032.
Gainesville’s own transportation master plan features long-term recommendations “to evaluate whether a signalized intersection or a roundabout would be most appropriate” at certain locations, said David Dockery, Gainesville public works director.
For now, however, “we don’t have any current plans to install a roundabout at any particular location,” he said.
Roundabouts have been suggested as a possible remedy for heavy traffic on Green Street, one of Gainesville’s busiest roads.
Particularly because of truck traffic, “we don’t think the operational situation with Green Street ... would really lend itself to roundabouts,” Dockery said.