Navicent wants a roundabout, and you're footing most of the bill

A new roundabout in downtown Macon became closer to reality Tuesday night.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission voted Tuesday to spend $250,000 for engineering costs tied to a roundabout at the intersection of Pine, Forsyth and Spring streets, which lead into Navicent Health's main campus.

The traffic-calming measure was listed as an option in the Macon Action Plan to resolve issues at the five-pronged intersection that can be confusing for people traveling through it.

Last year, Navicent officials approached the County Commission about several proposed traffic changes, including building the roundabout. Navicent is also building its children's hospital and has built new loft apartments near that intersection.

But at least one county commissioner said Navicent should be footing a much larger share of the costs.

Commissioner Mallory Jones says with Macon-Bibb facing a budget crisis that's trending toward a fourth consecutive multimillion dollar shortfall, the county should not be paying as much for a roundabout that Navicent leaders asked for.

Mayor Robert Reichert has said he's agreed to the county paying 80 percent of the costs, with Navicent covering the remaining 20 percent and also paying for maintenance. The final price of the project still needs to be determined, but a roundabout near Mercer University at College and Oglethorpe streets completed in 2014 came to about $1.5 million.

Reichert should have done a better job negotiating with Navicent, said Jones, who added that the hospital has enough money to pay for the roundabout with its large amount of reserves.

Macon-Bibb's funding for the roundabout would come from special purpose local sales tax proceeds.

Jones was the lone vote Tuesday against the roundabout ordinance.

“We have this great hospital, this great asset, but how much is enough?" Jones said. "How much should we do to supplement their budget and what we have here?”

Reichert, however, has dismissed the notion that terms of the agreement with Navicent were unfair to the county.

"It really is not a roundabout for Navicent. It's the roundabout at Navicent," the mayor said in an interview with The Telegraph last week. "And the vast majority of traffic that goes through that intersection is trying to go downtown, not necessarily to Navicent. Just like you wouldn’t expect them to pay for the traffic signal that's up there now."

County Commissioner Larry Schlesinger says the roundabout is needed to improve traffic flow at an unsafe intersection.

"This will be a nice improvement and gateway into downtown Macon," he said.

The roundabout outside of Navicent is not the only proposed roundabout that could built in Macon in the coming months and years.

There are also plans for the Georgia Department of Transportation to install a roundabout at the Seven Bridges area, where Pio Nono Avenue, Broadway and Houston Avenue merge and flow toward Houston Road.

Also, a mini-roundabout has been placed at Arkwright Road, Bass Road and Ga. 87, with a larger, permanent roundabout being put in later by the DOT.

Along with the College Street roundabout, there are roundabouts at Eisenhower Parkway and Holly Lane, and Thomaston Road and Lamar Road.

The county is also investigating whether a roundabout at Oglethorpe Street and First Street is feasible, Reichert has said.

Commissioners also voted Tuesday in favor of using $206,000 of SPLOST bond proceeds to pay for engineering costs tied to road and sidewalk improvements at Middle Georgia State University.