On Tuesday, the Cobb Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with Marietta-based Baldwin Paving Company Inc. to convert the existing intersection of John Ward Road and Cheatham Hill Road into a single-lane roundabout.
“This intersection has some safety issues, and also traffic flow issues in the peak hours,” said Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents the area.
Goreham endorsed the first Cobb County-sponsored roundabout at the intersection of Sandtown and Villa Rica roads, which was completed in 2008.
The District 1 comm-issioner believes roundabouts are cost-effective and safe solutions for certain intersections facing congestion.
“Round-abouts are fabulous,” Goreham said. “They provide added safety and allow for a constant flow of traffic. As a matter of fact, the reason why it’s so safe, and especially for older drivers, is the fact that when you enter any of the legs at the intersection … all you have to do is look left to enter the (roundabout).”
The project was listed on the voter-approved 2011 SPLOST, and Goreham says the roundabout will be completed within nine to 12 months of groundbreaking — the date of which has not been set.
Baldwin Paving Company Inc. submitted the low bid for the project at $2.2 million to receive the contract. The project includes construction of five-foot-wide sidewalks around the northern side of John Ward Road, from east of Ellis Farm Drive to Dallas Highway, and along the western side of Cheatham Hill Road, from Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park to John Ward Road.
Last year, county engineer Mike Wright told the MDJ the project would only cost about $760,000. Goreham said these new sidewalks are partially responsible for the increased cost.
“That was probably a conceptual estimate … because the cost of getting right of way, you’re not quite certain on that, from the surrounding properties,” Goreham said. “And also, we have added with that project some sidewalks in the area. And so part of that project includes sidewalk connectivity from Dallas Highway up to this new roundabout and then a little beyond, going towards the park area.”
While the project began under Goreham, it may be completed under the watch of Bill Byrne or Bob Weatherford, who are facing off in a runoff election July 22 to replace Goreham as District 1 Commissioner. The winner of the runoff faces Democrat Derrick Crump in November.
Weatherford supports using a roundabout to relieve congestion at the intersection.
“I know that it’s kind of a strained intersection. So, roundabouts appear to be working, at least the ones that I’m aware of. I know that Marietta put one in. … I think it’s a good use of money,” said Weatherford.
Byrne also supports the roundabout, but had reservations about the cost of the project and the aesthetics in the design.
“Fundamentally, the concept — the engineering concept — works very, very well for intersections of that type,” Byrne said.
“I sincerely believe that the costs that go into aesthetics is extreme and could have dramatically been reduced and give the same engineering solution to the traffic problem,” Byrne said.
The county has a number of roundabouts, all built within the last ten years. In addition to the roundabout at Sandtown and Villa Rica Roads, there are roundabouts at the intersection of Holly Springs and Davis roads, near the Mountain View Aquatic Center; the intersection of Fairground Street and Allgood Road, near Cobb Parkway; and the intersection of Lower Roswell, Willeo and Timber Ridge roads, near the Chattahoochee River.
In addition, Acworth has a roundabout at the intersection of Burnt Hickory and County Line roads.
Once commuters become accustomed to roundabouts, Goreham said the increased safety and improved traffic flow wins them over.
“As a matter of fact, once the roundabout went in at the very first location at Sandtown and Villa Rica (Roads), all we got were complements about how well it works,” Goreham said.