Newnan ‘City of Roundabouts’?
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Newnan has long been known as the City of Homes, but soon it may be dubbed with another nickname — the “City of Roundabouts.”
The roundabout is an alternative to the traditional four-way-stop in which drivers yield, enter counterclockwise around a center island and exit at the desired street.
Three roundabouts are currently in the works and, once completed, will bring the total number of roundabouts on public roads in Newnan to five. That's in addition to the numerous roundabouts in various subdivisions around the city.
There's even an atypical roundabout in the Ashley Park shopping center. It's different than a normal roundabout in that drivers must stop before entering, instead of yielding. A roundabout is currently the preferred design for future intersection improvement on Ga. Hwys. 54 and 16 in Turin.
"We don't build a lot of roads in the city," said Michael Klahr, city engineer and public works director. "But when needed, I think we're going to look at a roundabout each time as our first choice."
"The roundabouts are well received [in Newnan],” he said.
The alternative to standard intersections are safer, acting more to calm traffic and maintain a safe momentum. The roundabout at Greison Trail, Lower Fayetteville Road, East Newnan Road and East Broad Street is a notable example. When the intersection was a four-way-stop, traffic often became severely congested.
Since the roundabout opened in late 2008, traffic flows smoothly, creating less tension and less accidents.
The first new roundabout addition will be on Lower Fayetteville Road, at a new entrance to the Newnan Centre and the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts.
Klahr said the final design documents will be available in the coming week. The city will then review the plans before allowing bids. No right-of-way will need to be acquired for the project.
And most of the construction will take place off Lower Fayetteville Road, so there should be very little impact on traffic "until we have to work the tie-ins," Klahr said.
The second installment of a roundabout will be at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, East Newnan Road, Poplar Road and Turkey Creek Road.
This proposed construction will be a joint project between the city and county, and is currently in the design phases. The intersection improvement is not simply a traffic roundabout, but will include changing the route of portions of Turkey Creek and East Newnan roads, transforming a portion of Turkey Creek Road into a cul-de-sac.
Klahr said the right-of-way plans are expected by Feb. 1. Hopes are to get the right-of-way in hand in a few months and "we are projecting advertisement for bids in June of 2014" with the project opening to traffic in July 2015.
The third roundabout will be located on Greison Trail at the proposed McIntosh Parkway.
McIntosh Parkway, an extension of East Washington Street, has been in planning stages by the city of Newnan for many years. Parts of the future development have already begun, as developer-built roads. The road leading to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America is McIntosh Parkway, with the road continuing onto Newnan Bypass, beside Belk department store, where it ends abruptly.
The city plans to extend the road to Greison Trail as a four-lane, divided parkway, merging into a two-lane road from Greison Trail to McIntosh Parkway. McIntosh Parkway will officially end at Roberts Road. Included will be large sidewalks on both sides, extending the length of the road.
The city has applied for a grant from the State Road and Tollway Authority to help fund construction of the project.
If the city is awarded the grant, the entire project will be completed as proposed. If not, the portion from Greison to the Newnan Bypass will be built first. Without the grant, the roundabout may or may not be included immediately, but will depend on the amount of traffic.
The city has a design for the project but it is "from the ‘90s and early 2000s," Klahr said. "It's got to be upgraded to today's design standards."
The city's first roundabout is a little-known intersection at Calumet Parkway and Werz Industrial Boulevard.
But it's the success of the Greison/Lower Fayetteville/East Broad roundabout that really began the roundabout revolution in Newnan.
And it's the roundabout that almost wasn't.
In February 2005, Mayor Keith Brady asked city engineers to study the feasibility of a roundabout. Design work for a traffic light and turning lanes was completed in 2001.
The design plans proposed a huge roundabout — 134 feet in diameter. It was estimated the roundabout would be significantly less expensive than a traditional traffic light, estimated at $510,315. But the roundabout bid was estimated at $900,000. The project was put on hold.
The council discussed the project several times in 2007 and early 2008, facing much opposition from both council and the public. The Newnan Times-Herald's Sound Off section was filled with comments from naysayers, believing the roundabout would be a complete failure and a traffic nightmare.
Then, in April 2008, the council voted to move forward with the roundabout — by a vote of 4-3.
Councilman Clayton Hicks was one of those who voted against it. He said in 2009 he did so because that's what his constituents asked him to do. But after the roundabout opened, "a lot of them have come to me and said 'we were wrong, it's great. It's not what we expected.’"
Councilman Bob Coggin said in a city council meeting how pleased he was with the roundabout, even though he had voted against it. "I did something that politicians, and elected officials, rarely do. I admitted I was wrong," Coggin said in 2009.
Both said some of their worry came from experiences with the "roundabout" in Whitesburg, at Ga. Hwys. 16 and 5. It's a tiny roundabout with no center island.
"If you tried to run the volume of traffic in Whitesburg that we run on Lower Fayetteville and East Broad — you would have a disaster," Coggin said in 2009.
"It has been well-received after some skepticism at the beginning," said Klahr. He thinks most of that was due to "being unfamiliar" with roundabouts and "not knowing what to expect."
But "it has worked out really well" and certainly paved the way for roundabouts in the future.
The newer roundabouts will be larger and "the new ones should operate even better," Klahr said.