Residents voiced concerns about a plan to build a roundabout at the intersection of Wieuca Road and Phipps Boulevard at a public meeting June 7.
The comments from residents during the question and answer portion of the meeting were overwhelming negative. The concerns vary, but many people at the meeting said they do not trust the consultants and do not believe they have accurate data and studies to back up their claims for the project. About 5o people came to the meeting held at Wieuca Road Baptist Church.
The Buckhead Community Improvement District has been working on this project since 2005 when the North Buckhead Civic Association came to them with concerns about increased traffic congestion especially as new developments are proposed for the area. The BCID is working in conjunction with the city of Atlanta and the city’s Renew Atlanta bond program, a $250 million initiative to improve city infrastructure.
“This was not something dreamed up by the city of Atlanta or the BCID,” Darion Dunn, director of capital improvements and planning for the BCID, said. “This came to us from the community.”
The consultants from Pond and Company say the roundabout would move traffic through the intersection more quickly than the current traffic light, but is also designed to keep traffic at a slow enough pace to ensure pedestrian and driver safety. The roundabout would also improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, consultants say, because it adds bike lanes and crosswalks with flashing beacons around the roundabout. The consultants gave some examples of traffic studies they have done on the area, including that many crashes at the intersection involve left turns that would be eliminated if a roundabout was installed.
The roundabout is in the early stages of development and is still only a concept, consultants tried to remind residents at the meeting. All comments about the roundabout will be considered, they said. But some residents said they still have the feeling that the roundabout will move forward no matter their complaints.
If the roundabout moves forward as proposed, it is projected to begin in the fall of 2018 and will cost an estimated $3 million.
Consultants still have to create a final design and it has to be approved by the city of Atlanta. Public comment from this meeting and a previous public meeting will be factored into the final design if the proposal moves forward.
The meeting was planned to include a short presentation and question and answer session before transitioning into breakout sessions with residents asking consultants questions individually. However, the question and answer session lasted longer than planned after a resident posited that the organizers were trying to break the group up so they couldn’t hear each other’s comments.
“You guys seem to be intent on your plan. I don’t think you’re listening to what we have to say,” the resident said.
Frustration mounted after a resident asked about why one entrance requires cars to cross one lane in the roundabout if the driver wants to continue toward Ga. 400. The consultant, Graham Malone, a transportation engineer, seemed to not understand the question and the question went unanswered.
Residents are also concerned about the future of a park near the intersection that would lose some square footage if the roundabout is built.
“You want to chop the park in half to the make the intersection prettier? I’m not really down with that either,” Charles Mendez, who lives close to intersection on Phipps Road, said.
Pedro Torres, the landscape architect for the project, said he was glad community members brought up concerns about the park and said he wants them to know his team will do as much as they can to save as much land as they can.
Other community members brought up the future of a large, old magnolia tree outside of the church. Torres said that tree will likely not survive the construction. The tree will be damaged by construction, and it’s often too costly to try to relocate trees that large, Torres said.
One option to save as much park land as possible is to eliminate the bike lanes on that side of Wieuca Road, he said.
One resident described the plan to build bike lanes on both sides of the road as “overkill” because he doesn’t see that much bike traffic on the road.
The consultants said they have been encouraged by the city to build bike lanes, and touted the fact that installing those bike lanes will provide a connection to PATH400.
Most residents are concerned that the roundabout just simply will not solve traffic congestion and that the real issues that need to be addressed are fixing traffic on Peachtree Road, which is near the site of the proposed roundabout. They are also concerned that trying to build a roundabout with so many traffic lights nearby sets the project up for failure because traffic will back up at those lights.
Malone said he has been able to find other examples in the U.S. of roundabouts in similar situations that have worked. He also said he has traffic data to back up the consultants’ claim that the roundabout will ease traffic.
The consultants and Dunn reiterated several times that this project is only a concept. They encouraged residents to fill out comment cards distributed at the meeting or submit comments by email, which will be accepted until June 21. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the project can found on the Renew Atlanta website.