Roundabout at College Street set to open in late August

lcorley@macon.comJuly 16, 2014 

A roundabout planned for the corner of College and Oglethorpe streets is set to be completed next month, restoring traffic flow along the busy corridor.

Although it’s set to open in late August, the project manager says if the weather cooperates, it could still be ready before the start of Bibb County schools Aug. 1.

If it isn’t ready, traffic to and from Alexander II Magnet School will follow the same plan in place when the project started, officials said.

But once the roundabout and other work on College Street near the school is complete, school and county officials also say there currently is no plan to deal with daily school traffic, which will impact local traffic in the area.

In addition to the roundabout, on-street parking, wider sidewalks and a bike lane in each direction are being added to the stretch of College Street along Tattnall Square Park, leaving room for only one lane of travel in each direction.

The traffic light near the school on College Place has been removed, and a pedestrian signal is being erected.

At the end of the past school year, drivers dropping off students at Alexander II entered the campus from College Place and exited onto Oglethorpe. Macon-Bibb County spokesman Chris Floore said as of Wednesday that plan remains in effect for the first day of school if the roundabout’s not completed.

Floore said a meeting among the parties involved likely would be scheduled for late next week or early the following week.

Bertha Caldwell, the school’s new principal, said she understood that parents were encouraged to use the parking lot across the street in the park in the springtime. Now, the parking lot is dirt soon to be covered with sod.

“They’ve got to get creative up there soon,” said Bill Causey, the project manager. The roundabout and the resulting traffic issues are not new, he said. “It’s just I don’t know that (the school system has) a solution yet.”

David Gowan, director of risk management for the Bibb County school district, said the plan back in March was for his department, other school officials, the county government and the College Hill Alliance to meet this summer to decide how to deal with the impending traffic challenges.

“We’ve got to make sure that the traffic flows smoothly during two critical times of the day: the morning arrival process and the afternoon dismissal process,” Gowan said. “We’ve got to take that into account as far as making sure we do the best job we can to keep the traffic flowing smoothly on the public streets surrounding the school and also on the school parking lot.”

Gowan said the plan was to see how the construction progressed before making any decisions or announcements about traffic, though the expected finish date has always been late August.

Causey said school traffic was a problem because carpool lines queued up on both College and Oglethorpe streets, thus potentially blocking local traffic.

“They can’t do that anymore, because what they were doing, they were getting here 30 to 45 minutes early and stacking up cars (on the street), but it wasn’t a problem because the road was wide,” Causey said. “If they stop, it stops the whole road.”

Causey said it is possible the roundabout could be finished early if the weather permits. He knows the project will affect the school’s traffic flow.

“We’re sympathetic, but you can’t design all of your infrastructure to accommodate one user,” Causey said. Causey said the area is dynamic, and the population and traffic volumes likely will change when Mercer University finishes transforming Tattnall Square Presbyterian Church into an arts center.

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