What engineers are calling a “sneak peek” of Coffee County’s first roundabout is available for those interested on Thursday, June 9.
That is the day a public involvement meeting will be held at the Enterprise Farmers Market on Main Street to display a proposed aerial, animated 3D rendition of the roundabout to be built at the intersection of Highway 27 North and Shell Field Road.
At the Enterprise City Council meeting March 17, Enterprise City Engineer and Public Works Director Barry Mott and CDG Engineers and Associates Project Manager T.J. Kelley briefed the council on the status of the Alabama Department of Transportation project that is expected to add a measure of safety to what has been called a “dangerous intersection.”
Kelley said that the engineers involved with the project expect Dec. 2 of this year for the project to be let with construction to begin March 1, 2023. “This is an aggressive schedule,” Kelley said, adding that ALDOT has a projected letting date of April 28, 2023. “It takes about six to eight weeks for the project procurement after the letting is done.”
The public involvement meeting from 5 until 7 p.m. at the Farmers Market June 9 is the next step in the process and will be a “come and go-type” meeting, Kelley said, adding that ALDOT and CDG personnel will be available at the meeting. The renderings, including an animated rendering depicting projected traffic flow 20 years into the future, will be available for viewing. A comment box for any questions and concerns will be on site. “It’s not a sit-down meeting, it’s a walk-through,” Kelley said. “People can come and go as they want. The main thing is for them to leave comments and concerns in the drop box. The event is also going to be live streamed for the public.”
A type of circular intersection with traffic moving counter clockwise around a center island to reach one of the roads converging on to it, roundabouts are being built increasingly in this state because statistics show them to be safer than traditional intersections.
Mott gave a history of the project that was initiated after ALDOT identified the intersection as unsafe.
“So the wheels started turning and the planning began,” Mott said, adding that the council tasked the engineering department to submit an application for Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program-II funding. ATRIP-II was a program created under the Rebuild Alabama Act with the funds coming from Alabama’s gas tax revenue for projects of local interest on the state highway system. As a part of more than $45 million in funding awarded to various counties and cities across the state, Enterprise received $2 million for a roundabout.
Roundabouts have 90 percent less fatalities, 76 percent fewer injuries and 35 percent less crashes compared to other types of intersections, said Enterprise City Administrator Jonathan Tullos, as he explained the history of the intersection being able to obtain state funding for a roundabout.
“Roundabouts are becoming more prevalent in the state because of the data that is out there,” Tullos said when the funding was announced in January of this year.
The city was granted the $2 million maximum allowed under the ATRIP-II program. The estimated construction cost of the project was approximately $3 million. ALDOT committed to provide the project with Highway Safety Improvement Program funds for the additional required $1 million.
Tullos compared entering a true roundabout to driving on the ingress of an interstate. The reality is that some older traffic circles are being converted to true roundabouts for safety and operational improvements, he said. “Roundabouts have 90 percent less fatalities, 76 percent fewer injuries and 35 percent less crashes compared to other types of intersections.”
Highway 27 is state—not city—owned and maintained. The intersection has been the source of numerous vehicle crashes over the years, said Tullos. “The bottom line, to me, is that the city council was presented with a situation as they were considering rezoning property for the Dollar General. That council made a commitment to the public that they would do something to address safety at that intersection.
“What the administration did was go to State Rep. Rhett Marques, State Sen. Jimmy Holley and ALDOT and tell them that the city does not own this road but it is a severe safety issue and that they had promised their constituents to do something to address this,” Tullos explained.
“ALDOT studied all the issues and their people who are are trained in traffic data analysis came back with a solution that was a roundabout,” he added. “While some people may agree or disagree with it, the data speaks for itself.
“Ninety percent less fatalities. That number is powerful to me,” he added. “At the end of the day I think what we need to consider as a community is that if this roundabout prevents just one death it is worth it."