The roundabout at the corner of College and Oglethorpe streets, and the adjacent block of College fronting Tattnall Square Park are now open to traffic.
Local officials opened the new roundabout at a Friday morning ceremony, ending with a first drive through the traffic circle accompanied by several bicyclists.
The streets closed in March for work on the $1.3 million project, funded from a variety of sources. Other improvements were made along the closed block of College while the roundabout was under construction, and traffic was rerouted at the adjacent Alexander II Elementary School.
About 100 people came to watch Friday’s opening, including officials from Macon-Bibb County, Bibb County schools and Mercer University as well as contractors and neighborhood residents.
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Steve Smith, interim school superintendent, said he’s seen people using roundabouts elsewhere with no problem. He noted that Alexander II students will negotiate it every day.
“I would think that if elementary school kids can learn this, then most everyone else should be able to learn this, too,” he said. “It’s not that difficult.”
In an effort to relieve congestion during afternoon student pickup, the school’s dismissal times will be staggered, Smith said. The altered traffic pattern at Alexander II -- with cars entering from College Street and exiting with a right turn onto Oglethorpe -- will remain in effect, he said.
Mayor Robert Reichert said the project began three years ago with a state transportation grant, but included contributions from Mercer, the special purpose local option sales tax, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and various utilities.
While the roundabout was under construction, other improvements went in along College Street, including new sidewalks fronting Tattnall Square Park, crosswalks, landscaping and lighting.
Mercer President Bill Underwood said the master plan for the College Hill Corridor calls for roundabouts throughout the area.
“This will indicate to young people that this is a progressive community that is on the move,” he said.
Underwood thanked Bill Causey, who works in the Macon-Bibb County Engineering Department, for the idea of reusing the cobblestones that now surround the traffic circle’s landscaped center. Wimberly Treadwell was project manager, and much of the work was done by Appling Bros. and Middle Georgia Electric Inc.
The roundabout’s first users were Reichert, Smith, Underwood and Jeffery Monroe, the new chairman of the SPLOST advisory committee. They cruised around the circle in separate vehicles with bicyclists close behind.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.