Like many residents of the county, Newton County Board of Commissioners Chair Keith Ellis, was skeptical.
But statistics and time have changed his mind about the traffic roundabouts being installed in the county.
Roundabouts replace four- or three-way stop signs or a traffic light with traffic circles that flow one way around a center island. Yield signs are posted at all entries to the circle, slowing down traffic without inhibiting its flow.
Roundabouts, Ellis said, “naturally make people slow down, whereas, people try to beat the yellow traffic lights at an intersection. Engineers from the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) look at traffic patterns and accident report numbers, then do speed estimates through the intersections.
“Safety is the thing that they’re looking to improve,” he said, adding roundabouts “reduce and eliminate the extreme crashes that cause bodily injuries or fatalities.”
Roundabouts can also increase the efficiency of traffic flow and the volume of cars passing through the intersection.
In Newton County, Ellis said, there are currently two roundabouts — one at Turner Lake Road at Clark Street and the entrance to Turner Lake Park, and the other at the Pott’s Store intersection, State Route 36 and 212.
The DOT hearing scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 5, will be held on a proposed roundabout at the intersection of State Route 81 and 162 in Porterdale. The project, Ellis said, is in its infant stages.
According to DOT, the purpose of the proposed project is to improve the operational efficiency at the existing SR 81 and SR 162 intersection, while reducing the frequency and severity of crashes. The project would reconstruct the existing intersection to a four-legged roundabout.
Ellis said he would be at the public hearing and available to answer questions. DOT will also give him one of the diagrams illustrating the proposed roundabout “so people who might be unable to attend the meeting can still come by [the Historic Courthouse] and see what the plans are going to be.”
Ellis said another roundabout is planned for State Routes 81 at 212, providing funding is available. Two other roundabouts are in the works — one at the intersection of State Routes 278 and 142 on the east side of the county, and another at Hub Junction, the intersection of Highway 11 and 278.
“Three years ago, DOT said we can help you in Newton County if you’re willing to try roundabouts,” Ellis said. The county will be one of the leaders in the state in the installation of roundabouts, he added.
“It’s a positive thing,” he said. “We know we’re saving lives in Newton County.”