City DopeNews

Broad Street Roundabout Could Help Drivers and Pedestrians

A roundabout at Broad Street and Hancock Avenue could be a win-win for both drivers and pedestrians, ACC Transportation and Public Works Director Drew Raessler told county commissioners at a work session last week.

The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax voters approved in 2017 includes $3.9 million in funding for West Broad improvements, and Raessler said the Georgia Department of Transportation recently approached him about building a roundabout there. The local and state governments would split the estimated $5 million–$6 million cost, giving ACC some control over the project while also making it more attractive to GDOT. “By being able to offer some funding, it makes this more likely,” he said.

Currently, there are no crosswalks at the intersection and no good way to add them, Raessler said. Broad widens from four to seven lanes there, but with a roundabout, people on foot would only have to cross two lanes at a time. The crosswalks would include flashing beacons similar to those on Prince Avenue.

The roundabout would be designed to slow vehicular traffic to 15 miles per hour, Raessler said, and reduce delays by 70–80%, because drivers would no longer have to wait at the light. It could also serve as a “gateway” to intown Athens—perhaps with public art in the center—an indication to drivers to slow down, because Broad has transitioned from a suburban highway to a city street with neighborhoods on both sides.

The plan currently calls for closing off The Plaza to cars, because Raessler said tying it into the roundabout would require tearing down a business, and residents were worried about cut-through traffic. Commissioners raised some concerns about pushing more traffic onto surrounding streets, though.

Link wondered if the seven-lane portion of Broad could be narrowed to slow traffic and add bike lanes. (Raessler said GDOT hadn’t looked at the rest of the corridor.) And Mayor Kelly Girtz said he’d like to see the center turn lane replaced with a planted median.

Other plans for the West Broad TSPLOST funding include sidewalks on Magnolia, Paris and Waddell streets south of Broad, and a “neighborhood connector” through the St. Mary’s Hospital property. However, Link said those streets might be better served by improved lighting and traffic-calming measures like speed humps, rather than costlier sidewalks, advocating for a “shared streets” approach common in Europe. She asked for a traffic study before moving forward.

The commission is scheduled to vote on a preliminary project concept at its May 7 meeting.