It may take some getting used to, but a roundabout at West Broad Street and Hancock Avenue should make the intersection safer and help traffic flow more smoothly.
The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission heard an update about the roundabout project at a Mar. 14 work session. Construction on the approximately $7 million project is expected to start in January 2025 and take 14–18 months.
“At the end of the day when this is finished, I think we’ll see a different West Broad area—a lot safer, and it’ll look nice,” Commissioner Mike Hamby said.
Roundabouts are safer than signalized intersections because they force drivers to slow down and eliminate T-bone crashes while turning left. Pedestrians will also only have to cross two lanes at a time, rather than four or five, and the Georgia Department of Transportation is installing 5–10 foot sidewalks and crosswalks equipped with flashing beacons.
“Right now, if you go out there, there is physically no way to cross West Broad,” said engineer Erik Hammarlund. “You have to go to Rocksprings or up to Holman. Those are the only protected ways to cross. And it’s a long way to go, especially if it’s raining, and it’s uphill both ways from the [intersection].”
Commissioners Dexter Fisher and John Culpepper raised concerns about whether the roundabout can handle high volumes of traffic, especially on football gamedays. “It’s going to be amazing, as far as how well the traffic’s going to work,” said John Walker, a consultant with Kimley-Horn. Although traffic is slower, drivers also don’t have to wait at red lights. Multi-lane roundabouts in other parts of the state easily handle the amount of traffic on West Broad, Hammarlund said.
Construction won’t get started for almost two years because GDOT and ACC need time to negotiate with landowners to purchase the necessary right-of-way. One business, All American Plumbing, will be displaced because that land is needed for stormwater drainage and to protect Brooklyn Creek.
During construction, two lanes of traffic will remain open, Hammarlund said. “It’s going to slow folks down. It will be aggravating, the way all road construction is,” he said.
$6.6 million is currently budgeted for the roundabout, with $3.9 million coming from a local sales tax for transportation and the rest from GDOT. But that’s about half a million dollars short, according to project manager Diana Jackson. Some savings could be found during design and right-of-way acquisition, or construction costs could come down by 2025, she said. If not, ACC could ask GDOT to kick in more money. “GDOT’s getting a bargain at $2.5 million for that big roundabout,” Jackson said.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.