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Traffic roundabouts are all the rage for Hall roads
Intersection design leads to better traffic flow, safety, experts say
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Scott Frederick, left, Kris Phillips and Katie Strickland of the state Department of Transportation look at plans for a planned roundabout site on Lanier Islands Parkway at New Bethany and Big Creek roads.

Several roundabouts are emerging throughout Hall County, including this one on Lights Ferry Road at Mitchell Street in Flowery Branch.

Williams Chambers lived for some time in England, so he’s familiar with traffic roundabouts.

The Ledan-Sardis Road intersection being rebuilt in such a fashion near his northwest Hall County home will be a novelty for area motorists, but one he believes folks can handle.

“It should be OK,” Chambers said. “People have to know where their exit is. If they go past it, they just got to remember and go around again.”

The new traffic design won’t be new just for Chambers and his neighbors. Roundabouts are emerging all over Hall County, either in the works or under consideration by local governments.

Grading is underway on the $380,000 traffic circle at Ledan-Sardis, which is aimed to reduce congestion particularly during the school year.

The roundabout, set for an August completion, is expected to be in place until a more permanent fix: the Sardis Road Connector, which would run from Thompson Bridge Road/Ga. 60 to Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53. No timetable has been set for the connector.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning a roundabout on Lanier Islands Parkway/Ga. 347 at New Bethany Road/Big Creek Road as part of Ga. 347’s widening between McEver Road and Lanier Islands resort.

The $9 million widening project has been awarded to a contractor and is slated for October 2019 completion.

A cemetery forced the DOT to realign Ga. 347 and build the intersection north of the current Ga. 347 intersection at New Bethany and Big Creek.

Building a roundabout became the favored option, as it meant “less right of way for us to acquire,” district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.

But generally, roundabouts “work better because they make traffic flow more efficiently,” she said.

And they tend to be safer as people normally are going at slow speeds as they navigate the circle, DOT area manager Scott Frederick said.

If a wreck occurs, it’s normally at less damaging angles.

“In a regular intersection, you can get T-boned,” Frederick said.

Elsewhere in Hall, a roundabout is being considered as part of planned traffic improvements on Martin Road, which runs between Falcon Parkway/Ga. 13 and Winder Highway/Ga. 53.

Hall County officials recently scrapped a $46 million widening project in favor of less costly fixes, such as four-way stop signs and “traffic-calming” measures, such as speed bumps and tables.

A roundabout at Martin Road and JM Turk Road has support from the majority of a residents committee that sought an alternative to the widening, said Darlene Long, who leads the group.

“We’re very eager to hear the plans and the next steps,” she said. “Our (residents) group has visited quite a few roundabouts in the area.”

“Hall County is looking into conducting a speed study of Martin Road and what impact a roundabout, stop signs and speed tables will have on this road,” transportation planning manager Sam Baker said last week.

“Funding for such a study is yet to be identified.”

A roundabout also is being studied by Gainesville in a connector/bypass project that involves widening and realigning Oak Tree Drive, which is between Thompson Bridge Road/Ga. 60 and Riverside Drive. Also being considered: adding a traffic light at Oak Tree and Ga. 60.

A roundabout being eyed at Oak Tree and Riverside drives isn’t set in stone.

“The use of a roundabout or signal for this intersection will be determined during the project engineering process,” Gainesville Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky said.

Project design and engineering is expected to start in fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, he added.

As part of a possible study of Oakwood intersection improvements, the South Hall city is looking at a roundabout on Main Street, Flat Creek Road and Old Oakwood Road.

That roundabout, also envisioned as part of Oakwood’s long-term Vision 2030 plans, would replace a triangle of roads and access to First Baptist Church of Oakwood now in place.

Also, just outside of Hall, Braselton is looking at building roundabouts at the Interstate 85 southbound exit ramp and at the nearby entrance to the Chateau Elan resort.

Several roundabouts already are operating, the newest one on Lights Ferry at Mitchell Street near downtown Flowery Branch. The city is now looking at potential improvements to Mitchell Street, which leads to City Park and Lake Lanier.

Lanier Islands opened three roundabouts on the resort in 2007-08 as part of overall infrastructure improvements, replacing traditional intersections.

Perhaps the oldest roundabout in Hall is on Mathis Drive at Landrum Education Drive. Built in 2006, it’s on the University of North Georgia campus in Oakwood, not far from Thurmon Tanner Parkway.

“We have found that the roundabout has been more effective and as safe or safer than a four-way stop, and circulates traffic effectively for our growing enrollment and traffic,” UNG spokeswoman Sylvia Carson said. “There have been minimum accidents and the flow has been smooth.”

Rotalsky said Gainesville has “considered roundabouts for several locations,” but none are in the works.

“Roundabouts are a good transportation tool when properly engineered and placed for the traffic needs of a specific roadway,” he said.

Denise Farr, a Hall County engineer, said likewise for Hall.

Roundabouts could be a viable option for future road fixes, as “they do provide for a reduction in traffic congestion and safer intersections,” she said.

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