2 roundabouts near school entrances doing job they were intended to do

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The roundabouts constructed near three Bartow County schools over the summer are already paying dividends. 

Since the roundabout — a circular intersection that moves traffic counterclockwise around a central island — has been in place at the intersection of Cass-White Road and Colonel Way in front of Cass High and White Elementary schools, the number of recorded car accidents has dropped from four last year during the first three months of the school year to zero this year during the same time span, according to the school system.

"They've had a significant reduction in the number of accidents at that entrance to the schools, which means savings not only in their personnel costs [but] general savings to all residents that have to travel through that intersection," said Tom Sills, Cartersville-Bartow Metropolitan Planning Organization transportation planner. "Generally, I think any time you look at roundabout designs, you'll see there's a significant decrease in the likelihood of accidents, in particular in the severity of the accidents due to their design, so I foresee that many more intersections will get the same treatment." 

And the traffic flow during arrival and dismissal at Hamilton Crossing Elementary has "definitely" become much safer and smoother since the roundabout was created at the intersection of Beavers Drive and Hamilton Crossing Road, Principal Lynn Robertson said.  

"It makes it much safer and easier to access Hamilton Crossing Road when exiting from our car-rider lanes," she said. "Previously, drivers had to make a difficult right turn onto Hamilton Crossing Road, often having to cross the center line into oncoming traffic. That is not the case now with the roundabout." 

Campus Police Chief Randall Burch said he believes the roundabout projects are a "total success."

"I think it was the right decision," he said. "I appreciate the Bartow County Road Department in their efforts to complete before school started earlier this year."  

The chief said there were several reasons for the high number of car crashes at the Colonel Way/Cass-White intersection — 14 since June 2016, according to the school district.

"Speed often was a contributing factor," he said. "Failure to yield also. The volume of traffic, particularly in morning hours. All these factors combined." 

CHS Principal Stephen Revard said the new traffic design provides a "safer and more efficient entrance-exit" for anyone driving to and from the campus.

"The roundabout has created a smooth traffic flow at low speeds," he said.    

WES Principal Amy Heater agreed.

"The roundabout is definitely helping with the traffic flow," she said. "The slower speeds have helped eliminate major collisions at the intersection."  

The design also has eliminated the need for extra campus police officers to be at the intersection during peak hours to assist with traffic flow. 

"The accidents [last year] took place early in the school year so we asked our campus police officers to direct traffic during high-volume hours," Revard said. "[Now] campus police officers are no longer required to direct traffic in order to prevent accidents. This allows us to allocate our security resources more effectively at the start of each school day."
 
Heater said most of the parents at her school love the roundabout, which cost “$846,000 and some change” and was constructed by C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., according to Sills. 

"They feel that the traffic flows smoother and is safer," she said. 

It didn't take long for Cass' student drivers to get the hang of dealing with a roundabout, said Revard, who asked Southland Engineering President Karl Lutjens to speak to them about safely navigating the new design.

"We held a meeting with student drivers on the first day of school and explained how to properly proceed though the roundabout," he said. "They have been great about using caution and picked up on it quickly."    

Robertson said the comments she's heard from parents about the Hamilton Crossing roundabout — which was built by the county and cost roughly $650,000 to complete, Sills said — "have been positive" so far. 

"They are happy the roundabout is now open," she said.   

All that's left on both projects is landscaping.

For the Colonel Way/Cass-White roundabout, CHS's agriculture club is working with Sills on a plan and will partner with White's STEM subcommittee to plant flowers in the spring to beautify the area, according to Heater. 

Robertson said everyone at Hamilton Crossing is "looking forward to when the entire project is completed." 

"The area around the intersection is being nicely landscaped so it will make the area around the park and our school more attractive," she said.