Cleveland, Tenn., considers building first traffic roundabout at Confederate monument

Cleveland, Tenn., considers building first traffic roundabout at Confederate monument

October 13th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Cleveland, Tenn., is considering putting a roundabout at this intersection near Lee University to help with traffic flow. Two monuments stand in the median at the corner of Eight and North Ocoee streets.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should Cleveland build a roundabout at the intersection?

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland's first roundabout might solve the traffic problem at a downtown intersection, a traffic consultant says.

Allen Childers with Knoxville-based consulting engineering firm Cannon and Cannon cautioned the City Council this week that he has taken only a preliminary look at Eighth and North Ocoee streets, where a Confederate monument and an obelisk memorializing some 19th century train-wreck victims stand in a bed of roses.

Traffic accidents around the intersection with the monuments have increased in the past few years with downtown and Lee University growth, officials said.

"It's very dangerous," said Kristin Mueller, who was doing research Wednesday at the history branch of the Bradley/Cleveland Public Library, which looks out at the monuments. "It would be nice if they can change that."

She's had some close calls there herself, she said.

"I have pulled out into traffic and all of a sudden somebody is flying around the corner," Mueller said.

But an expensive roundabout should not be the first step the city takes, said Diane Hilliard, also at the history branch.

"Speed bumps would slow it down," she said.

The two women, and others at the library, pretty much agreed starting with speed bumps would be better.

Childers said roundabouts are not new to Tennessee, with about 24 now in place statewide. At least 14 of those are in Chattanooga, records show.

"They work well in certain situations, but they don't work well in others," he said. "So we have to be careful where we put one."

Every motorist entering a roundabout must yield the right-of-way, then turn right. That's a safety factor, Childers said, along with slowing traffic.

Other advantages include no need for electricity for traffic lights and reduced accidents both in number and severity, he said.

The drawbacks could include a three-month construction time, blocking the intersection, a need for more space from some front yards at the intersection and the initial cost, Childers said.

Councilman Bill Estes asked whether the monuments would have to be moved if the city decides in favor of a roundabout.

Childers said the monuments would stay in place.