Open house set for Bibb roundabout plan

Don’t expect a Hollywood blockbuster with Chevy Chase driving endlessly in a circle, saying, “Look, kids! Lake Wildwood. Tobesofkee.”

A roundabout being planned for a five-way intersection along Thomaston Road will be on a smaller scale -- with just one lane -- than the broad, confusing traffic circles that confused Chase’s character in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.” Residents can get more information at an open house Tuesday on that roundabout.

Transportation officials say roundabouts improve safety. The Federal Highway Administration says roundabouts reduce fatal accidents by 90 percent, injuries by 76 percent and the number of accidents by 35 percent. Unlike conventional intersections with traffic lights or stop signs, cars can’t get struck head-on or T-bone into each other.

Though only a single such roundabout exists in Middle Georgia, outside Culloden, the Georgia Department of Transportation is contemplating more than a dozen roundabouts for Middle Georgia. Local activists want more than that.

Lindsay Holliday, an activist with CAUTION Macon, said Macon and Bibb County officials should seek three roundabouts along Forest Hill Road alone. Holliday said the intersection with Northside Drive, with several layers of turn lanes, is “the most dangerous, widest, most confusing intersection, and it could have been solved with a single-lane roundabout to handle all of that traffic, according to experts.”

The Thomaston Road roundabout that will be featured in Tuesday’s open house at Stratford Academy, 6010 Peake Road, would tie together five road segnments. Thomaston Road now goes all the way through the current intersection; Lamar Road becomes Johnson Road; and Lower Thomaston, the route to some of Lake Tobesofkee’s parks, splits off nearby.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials worked with Bibb County commissioners to tweak the project, making it bigger to better accommodate trucks and incorporating Lower Thomaston Road into the intersection. The state’s district engineer has said if the project is rejected now, it might not get built.

Construction could begin in January 2013, wrapping up in mid-2014, said Kimberly Larson, district communications officer for the Georgia Department of Transporation. The cost is now estimated at $1.73 million. Areas that have gotten roundabouts like them, she said.

Officials worried the roundabout near Culloden at U.S. 341 and Ga. 74 could confuse people because it was far from a city. No problems have been reported.

“Once folks get through them, they really do like them. They do really figure them out,” Larson said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.