James A. Wilgus, public works director for Marietta, said the $644,000 intersection, part of a $6.8 million project financed by the 2005 special purpose local option sales tax, will gain two right-turn lanes, from Fairground to Allgood and then onto Cobb Parkway, by Dec. 10.
“It should be open in a couple weeks,” he said. “Dec. 10 sounds like a fine week for it to be open. If we get one day of bad weather, it’ll push it to Dec. 11.”
More than 14,000 vehicles per day travel through the intersection, according to the city.
At a City Council committee meeting Nov. 26, Wilgus fielded questions from Council members Jim King and Anthony Coleman about right-turn access from Allgood Road onto Cobb Parkway, bypassing the roundabout.
“It should be open momentarily,” Wilgus told Mayor Steve Tumlin and the City Council about the project that broke ground more than a year ago. “We’re nearing completion on the whole project. The project is substantially complete.”
Although currently contributing to traffic headaches, the project is intended to relieve congestion and improve safety, Wilgus said, because in the past, “with the way certain lanes stopped or didn’t stop, it was very confusing.”
“It was a T-intersection, but on Allgood, traveling left, you didn’t have a stop sign,” Wilgus said. “People on Allgood didn’t know if they had to stop or not.”
The original intersection, as seen on a 2009 aerial map, had three northbound lanes on Fairground Street, two of which were right-turn lanes.
The remaining lane allowed drivers to turn left onto Allgood Road or continue straight into an apartment complex. Fairground southbound was one lane.
Allgood had one westbound travel lane, as it will when the intersection is complete.
Eastbound, Allgood had two lanes — one to go straight and one for right turns onto Fairground.
At a February 2011 city council meeting, Police Chief Dan Flynn said the intersection had seen 12 accidents in the previous 24 months.
“The roundabout will be constructed to eliminate potential confusion at Allgood and Fairground,” Flynn said at that time. “It will not only make the intersection safer, it will improve the appearance of the neighborhood.”
Drivers enter the roundabout at one of four points and travel one way in a counterclockwise direction. Drivers do not need to stop before entering, but must yield to traffic already in the circle.
There will be three northbound lanes on Fairground approaching the intersection: two “bypass” lanes that are right-turn-only and one that enters the roundabout with a yield sign.
“The bypass lanes simply allow drivers who are going straight on Allgood, or turning right on Cobb Parkway to bypass the roundabout,” Wilgus said. “The bypass lanes are only at the roundabout.”
Signs will alert drivers approaching the roundabout from Fairground.
On Allgood east of the roundabout, there will still be two lanes that turn left onto Cobb Parkway and two lanes to go straight across Cobb Parkway. One additional lane will turn right onto Cobb Parkway.
“Two lanes go across Cobb Parkway. This has not changed,” Wilgus said. “There are two left turn lanes on to Cobb Parkway. Again, this has not changed.”
Eastbound drivers approaching the roundabout from Allgood will see one lane to enter the roundabout and one for right turns onto Fairground.
Drivers in the single westbound lane on Allgood enter the roundabout regardless of destination.
The project includes a five-foot retaining wall along the Hillcrest apartment complex property.
“It’s needed to hold the soil next to the apartment complex in place,” Wilgus said. New sidewalks and street lighting are also included, as is landscaping.
“We hope we can get the plants in the first week of January,” he said about plantings in the medians, sidewalk and in the center of the roundabout.
The Georgia Department of Transportation says roundabouts reduce accidents by 35 percent or more over traditional intersections, and cut injuries by more than 60 percent.
The city’s engineering consultant, Croy Engineering, initiated the project by identifying the intersection as ideal for a roundabout.
Peachtree City-based JHC Corp., which also built the streetscape on Powder Springs Road in Marietta, is in charge of construction.
Councilman Coleman, who represents that area and travels the intersection often, said though he’s been frustrated by the delays, he understands the cause.
“I thought the project by this time would be complete. … I kept hearing it would be complete by this date, then something came up and they wouldn’t be able to meet their target date. There were a lot of delays,” he said.
Still: “for the most part, I’m pleased with the project,” he said. “Our staff has done an excellent job at facilitating this project.”
The project was first due to break ground in summer 2010, with a completion date of spring 2012. Groundbreaking didn’t actually occur until November 2011.
This past summer, the roundabout itself was due to open “before school begins in early August,” Wilgus told the Journal in June. It opened in September.
“The reason we kept moving the date originally was because of some right-of-way issues,” Wilgus said. “Once we did start, we ran into unsuitable soil issues. Underneath we ran into some wet soils that could not be compacted. We had to excavate that soil and replace it with stone. That delayed the project until now.”