The switch from a four-way stop to a roundabout has kept traffic moving at Pumpkin Center.
Traffic was diverted from the four-way stop on Appling-Harlem Highway at Wrightsboro Road near Harlem to the roundabout on May 28.
“On May 28, traffic was shifted to the current roundabout traffic pattern to allow for construction of the inside of the roundabout,” according to Cissy McNure, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation East Central Georgia District office.
The $1.1 million roundabout is expected to be complete by the end of July.
There have been no major wrecks or other problems since the traffic shift, according to Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris. Though, at least one person has called for deputies explain how to navigate the new traffic circle.
Columbia County Engineering Services Division Director Matt Schlachter said roundabouts are becoming a more DOT-favored improvement for troublesome intersections.
The new roundabout is one of several in the county – in Riverwood, on Mason McKnight Junior Parkway, on Ronald Reagan Drive behind Chili’s and in private subdivisions such as Highgrove off Hardy McManus Road.
Two more roundabouts are in the planning stages for Hereford Farm Road at Blanchard Road and on William Few Parkway at Chamblin Road.
Schlachter has said that roundabouts have been around for a long time and are safer types of intersections. They slow motorists down and keep speeds low, resulting in fewer and less- severe wrecks.
According to McNure, roundabouts have more than 90 percent fewer fatalities than traditional intersections, a 76 percent reduction in injuries and 35 percent fewer crashes. They also are safer for pedestrians.
Roundabouts are larger than neighborhood traffic circles designed to calm traffic and smaller than larger, high-speed rotaries used in other parts of the country.
The Pumpkin Center roundabout is the first built on a highly traveled road in the county. It also is big enough to handle both civilian vehicles and transport trucks.
“Education is key,” McNure said of navigating roundabouts, especially for motorists who aren’t experienced with them.
A roundabout is a circular intersection with yield control of entering traffic, islands on the approaches and appropriate roadway curvature to reduce vehicle speeds, according to McNure.
“Education is vital to the acceptance and success of a roundabout,” according to the Federal Highway Administration. “Navigating a roundabout is easy. But because people can be apprehensive about new things, it’s important to educate the public about roundabout use.”
Yield is the key to roundabout operations. Slow down and yield to circulating traffic and pedestrians. Always drive to the right, merge into traffic and exit at the appropriate roadway.