Madison considers traffic circle at Bethany

Tia Lynn Ivey News

Madison’s City Council may be softening its former position on pursuing a traffic light for the Bethany Road intersection at the Madison bypass. Local leaders and citizens have worried about the safety of the intersection for years due to “blind hills” on both sides that put drivers at risk for serious accidents. Representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the governing body with the sole authority to approve a traffic light, joined officials from Morgan County, The city of Madison, local law enforcement agents, and local business and religious leaders last month to discuss what has been deemed “the most dangerous intersection in all of Morgan County.”

While the county leaders vowed to continue pursuing a traffic light, despite GDOT’s insistence that the intersection does not meet the criteria to justify a traffic light, city leaders are considering changing course. Local leaders had previously been united in the effort to get a traffic light at the Bethany Road intersection to reduce the risk of severe accidents. Now, some council members are coming around to the idea of a roundabout instead.

During last Friday’s work session, the council discussed drafting a letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) expressing support for exploring the installation of a roundabout instead of a traffic light.

“GDOT thinks that’s the solution out there,” said Councilman Rick Blanton on Friday to the council. “We cannot vote on it today, but it will be on the agenda for our next meeting. This will be a letter to the state traffic engineers to support the consideration of a roundabout at this location.”

Councilmen Joe DiLetto and Rick Blanton were persuaded by GDOT’s data on the safety of roundabouts vs. a traffic light.

“I think a roundabout would the safest option,” said DiLetto. “I know everyone knows how to drive a traffic light and initially a traffic light finds more favor with the public, but according to GDOT, the traffic light is the least safe out of all the options.”

Blanton believes GDOT will not go for a traffic light, so the roundabout option is the best solution that is available.

“I was surprised they have data that show lights are not the safest option. I would think that it would have been,” said Blanton. “But the worst option is leaving it the way it is.”

A roundabout at the Bethany Road Intersection could cost between $1.2 million and over $4 million, depending on the number of lanes the roundabout design utilizes.

According to GDOT, “The modern roundabout is a type of circular intersection defined by the basic operational principle of entering traffic yielding to vehicles on the circulatory roadway. Roundabouts have geometric features providing a reduced speed environment that offers substantial safety advantages and excellent operational performance.  Roundabouts shall be considered as an alternative for all intersections that are being reconstructed, including those where a traffic signal is being proposed.”

According to Kyle Collins, district communications specialist for GDOT, roundabouts have shown great success in reducing fatal car wrecks throughout the state. “Georgia Tech recently completed a Georgia Department of Transportation research project that found when 3-leg and 4-leg conventional intersections are converted into roundabouts in our state they experienced approximately a 56 percent reduction in average crash frequency for all crashes and a 69 percent reduction in average fatal/injury crash frequency,” said Collins. “Based on the highest accredited Federal Highway Administration national studies, vehicle damage crashes may still occur, but they reduced fatal and injury crashes by 63.8 percent. At GDOT we are focused mainly on fatal and injury crashes so this is significant.”

Councilman Eric Joyce noted that the use of roundabouts is becoming more common throughout Georgia.

“There are a lot more now than there used to be and people are getting used to them,” said Joyce.

Should the council vote to approve a letter of support for the roundabout, they will commit to covering the cost of electric, lighting, and maintenance should a roundabout be constructed by GDOT.

The council will discuss the issue again at the next regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m., which will be held in the City of Madison meeting hall located at 160 North Main Street in Suite 400.

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