Motorists will soon be driving in more circles as a traffic trend becomes more apparent on Columbia County roads.
County officials voted Tuesday to begin the design and engineering process for two roundabouts to improve troublesome intersections on Hereford Farm Road at Blanchard Road and William Few Parkway at Chamblin Road.
“Roundabouts have been around for a long, long time,” county Engineering Services Division Director Matt Schlachter said. “They are starting to get realized in the U.S. for their safety, how much safety they bring to intersections.”
The two new roundabouts add to several others in the county – Riverwood, Mason McKnight Junior Parkway near the future home of Bass Pro Shops, Ronald Reagan Drive behind Chili’s and a few in private subdivisions such as Highgrove off Hardy McManus Road.
Another at Pumpkin Center is in the pre-construction stages. The $1.1 million project is expected to be complete by the end of March, according to Cissy McNure, a Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
Schlachter said that DOT officials changed state regulations a couple of years ago requiring municipalities to consider roundabouts before traditional traffic signals.
“In order to improve an intersection with a signal, you have to first do a study to prove a roundabout won’t work,” Schlachter said.
Pre-construction studies and traffic counts ensure the roundabouts are designed and built to accommodate traffic whether it be civilian vehicles or transport trucks, Schlachter said. They also keep traffic flowing through intersections and keep speeds down, resulting in fewer and less-severe accidents.
A roundabout on Hereford Farm Road at Blanchard Road will help motorists navigate the area that currently has a 45 mph speed limit and limited sight distance.
“Coming over that hill, we’re going to try to slow folks down,” Schlachter said. “It makes it a lot safer.”
Because the new roundabouts haven’t been designed yet, Schlachter said there’s no way to tell what they will cost or when they will be complete. The Hereford Farm Road project is slated to be paid for from the 2011-16 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and the William Few Parkway roundabout is part of the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.
County Commissioner Bill Morris, who represents the district containing Pumpkin Center, said he’s trying to put together some helpful information about roundabouts for residents to include safety statistics and how to navigate a roundabout. He plans to disseminate fliers and possibly hold public meetings.
“The whole transportation industry is moving more and more towards roundabouts because they are low maintenance,” Morris said.