Chickamauga, Ga., eyes use of roundabout traffic circle

Chickamauga, Ga., eyes use of roundabout traffic circle

February 7th, 2012 by Tim Omarzu in News

Leon "Al" Pierce, a civil engineer who's done two decades of contract work for Chickamauga, Ga.

Photo by Nikki Middlebrooks

CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. -- Chickamauga is a three-stoplight town -- and that may be its limit because city officials are leaning toward installing a roundabout at a busy, often backed-up intersection.

Leon "Al" Pierce, a civil engineer who's done two decades of contract work for Chickamauga, strongly recommended to City Council at its meeting Monday night that a roundabout -- not a traffic signal -- be installed at the intersection of Osburn School and Five Points roads.

It's reportedly the region's busiest intersection for trains and traffic, with an average of 63,300 cars and trucks crossing the railroad tracks there daily.

"This is one of the best intersections to put a roundabout," said Pierce, who's assistant vice president for Dalton, Ga.-based CTI Engineers.

Pierce ticked off reasons state and federal transportation departments favor roundabouts over traffic lights these days. He said roundabouts reduce accidents and rush-hour backups and require less maintenance.

"Fuel consumption goes down, because people aren't sitting there," he told council. "Traffic moves a little bit slower [at a roundabout], but on the upside, you don't have the terrible accidents."

Councilman Jim Staub expressed concern about how well a roundabout would work at a railroad track, but Pierce said it could accommodate two crossing bars. City Manager John Culpepper wondered if the railroad crossing bars were necessary because the volume of train traffic has decreased so much since the 1950s and 1960s, when coal cars frequently rumbled by.

The council gave Pierce unanimous approval to proceed with a roughly $20,000 traffic study at the intersection. The city got a $650,000 grant it can spend on the intersection and hopes to get another $100,000 while the Georgia Legislature is in session, Culpepper said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at timomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.