Yesterday evening I attended a GA DOT Town Hall Meeting at North Paulding High School to learn more about the proposed intersection improvement for Georgia State Highway 61 and Dabbs Bridge Road in North Paulding.
Here’s a quick view of the proposed roundabout and intersection improvement; image courtesy of GA DOT.
Disclaimer: This is currently a proposal from the GA DOT and is not yet an approved project. The thoughts below do not represent Paulding County, nor the GA DOT, and are simply my words as a reflection of what I learned and some of the thoughts that were represented in last night’s meeting.
Let me start off my analysis by saying, courtesy of the USAF, I was born overseas in England where my father was stationed while serving our great country. I spent my first 2-3 years in England, and while I don’t really remember much of those early years, there are tons of old photos and a few fuzzy memories that linger for whatever reason. One of those fuzzy memories is standing up (yes, standing up!) in the front seat of Dad’s car while we were whizzing around a roundabout. And no, I don’t recall wearing a seatbelt. I digress. I can only imagine the feeling that memory evokes is what a dog feels when it sticks its head out of the window in a car, tongue freely flying in the wind. Bliss.
As a result of those first few years, I’ve always had a particular fondness for English culture, architecture, beer, etc. Roundabouts and stone-lined country roads are just the tipping point. So when I heard there might be a roundabout coming to Paulding County, I thought it was pretty cool!
I’ve never understood why we don’t use roundabouts more in the U.S., but we seemingly have a deeply held fear of them. The beauty of roundabouts is they keep traffic moving, and they’ve been proven over and over and over again to be safer than red light intersections. And members of the GA DOT hit on that point consistently last night with tenacity. That said, like many things, sometimes things just don’t make much sense. I think this could be one.
Maybe I am missing something, but it seems to me there really isn’t that much traffic on Hwy 61. At least, not enough to make a roundabout a common sense solution. But suppose I’m wrong, my three biggest concerns are as follows…
Has the GA DOT already discussed this proposed project with any impacted property owners?
Feedback last night indicated that is unlikely. I was never given a straight answer from DOT representatives. That concerns me greatly. Step one in this process should be to go above and beyond to contact every property owner impacted and give them first right of refusal, and discuss how they’ll be compensated for their cooperation. We all know the state could potentially rule imminent domain, but there should at the very least be a first right of refusal by those directly impacted first, before a community town hall meeting. Maybe they were. I wasn’t able to speak to any of the property owners and ask. If you happen to be one of those property owners, please reach out to me as I’d love to hear your thoughts and concerns privately.
Would it be Third-Army Interchange Compatible?
This may be a big white elephant, but for the sake of expressing my concerns, let’s assume the Third-Army Road Interchange project one day becomes a reality. Sooner than later? One can hope. The Third-Army Road Interchange Project includes constructing a new roadway from Dabbs Bridge Road in Paulding County through Cobb and Bartow Counties to a new interchange with I-75 about halfway between the I-75 bridges over Joe Stella Drive on the north side and the I-75 bridges over Lake Allatoona on the south side. The completion of that project would make Dabbs Bridge to Hwy 61 (in my eyes) a major roadway, and some of the proposals included making Dabbs Bridge Road a 4-lane road. I was told in 2013 that it would most likely be 4-laned. Tying this to the Hwy 61 at Dabbs Bridge Road intersection improvement project, I’m concerned that the proposal isn’t 4-lane ready, and we’ll have to endure construction AGAIN when the 3rd Army Road project (again, one can hope) becomes a reality. It would be silly and utterly wasteful to not connect the dots on these two projects.
Non-Stop Through Lanes.
The proposed roundabout includes a far-right lane for southbound traffic on Hwy 61, but it’s not a dedicated, non-stop through lane. I have made the recommendation to the DOT that they widen this about 1-2 more feet and add a non-stop through lane for Southbound traffic on Hwy 61 that ultimately avoids the roundabout altogether. Similar through lanes could be created for right-turn traffic for 61-North to Dabbs Bridge and Dabbs Bridge to 61-North. This would be especially beneficial for larger vehicles like school buses and semi-tractor trailers. This has been done in other roundabouts successfully and keeps things moving more effectively. Multiple residents expressed a concern about larger vehicles as well last night.
In closing, I would like to compare the current proposed improvement project side-by-side with a three-way intersection that includes a red-light, a non-stop through-lane for southbound traffic on 61, and non-stop through-lanes for right-turn traffic for 61-North to Dabbs Bridge and Dabbs Bridge to 61-North. Additionally, I recommended in my comments to the DOT that we go ahead and assume that one day, maybe, the Third-Army Road Interchange will finally happen, and make this 4-lanes now so we don’t have to waste taxpayer dollars and redo it down the road (pun intended). And last but not least, we might as well find a way as a county to work with the state and take advantage of the opportunity to put some much needed infrastructure and utilities (water, sewer, fiber, etc.) in the ground while the dirt is being moved. No point in moving dirt two, three, four or more times, when you can use a little common sense to work together and efficiently cross off multiple projects at the same time.
In my own words,
If you would like to review the project info and comment, you can do so online between now and Tuesday, March 06, 2018 using the instructions below:
1. Go to: www.dot.ga.gov/PS/Public/PublicOutreach
2. About halfway down the page, you’ll see a dropdown box. Select Paulding & click GO.
3. Towards the bottom, select SR 61 @ Dabbs Bridge & click GO.
4. Click Comment to provide comments.
You may also mail your comments to
600 West Peachtree Street NW, 16th Floor
Atlanta GA 30308.