What may have been the first roundabout sign in Enterprise instructs traffic to stay to the right as it traverses the new Boll Weevil Monument after it wasinstalled at the intersection of Main and College Streets 101 years ago. (Photo courtesy of the Pea River Historical Society)
By Michelle Mann
Apr 7, 2021
A pledge to improve safety standards at an intersection called dangerous is what started a process that will result in construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Shellfield Road and Alabama Highway 27.
At the Enterprise City Council work session March 16 Enterprise City Council President Turner Townsend, CDG Engineers and Associates Project Manager T.J. Kelley and CDG Engineer Randy Tindell outlined some of the reasons a decision was made by the state to build a roundabout.
When the city council was asked in July 2020 to approve the city planning commission’s recommendation to rezone farm land near the intersection for a Dollar General Store to be built, safety was a citizen concern expressed at both governing boards’ meetings.
“The major concern was safety at that intersection,” Townsend told those attending the March 16 work session. “At that time, we pledged to our constituents that we would do our best to improve the safety standards at that intersection. It was a dangerous intersection both before and after Dollar General was built.
“We committed to work with the Alabama Department of Transportation to improve the safety of the intersection,” Townsend explained. “It’s a state intersection so improvements to this intersection can only be made by the state.
“Since the construction of the Dollar General, the mayor and council have been working with ALDOT to come up with an affordable solution to improve the safety of this intersection,” he added.
Townsend said that since passage of the statewide gas tax in 2019, specifically designed to benefit road construction and repairs, additional funding sources are now available through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program II.
“In late 2019 we, the council and mayor, started looking at ATRIP II as a possible funding source,” Townsend said. “We also started looking at the Highway Safety Improvement Program—HSIP—for funds.”
Townsend said that the city’s goal was—and is—safety improvements to that intersection. “Most of the calls we’ve receivedsay people don’t want a roundabout, they want a traffic light,” he told the engineers.
“ALDOT is very aware of the safety issues at that intersection,” said Kelley. ‘They did a traffic study analysis of that intersection traffic signal and it did not meet all the warrants that were required for that intersection to have a stop light.”
Not every intersection that is analyzed is warranted a roundabout, Kelley added, but the Shellfield Road and Highway 27intersection was. “A roundabout was the safest alternative that they could find. The Federal Highway Administration has identified roundabouts as an improved safety countermeasure for intersections.”
Townsend said that after numerous discussions a proposal package was put together with funding from ATRIP II, HSIP and some city funds. “We requested these funds through an extensive application process and, with some help from State Sen. Jimmy Holley and State Rep. Rhett Marques, we were successful in obtaining the funds.”
Kelley said that implementation of roundabouts across the state has reduced fatalities by 90 percent and reduced traffic related injuries by 76 percent.
“The general public’s first question is, ‘Why not a traffic signal?’” Kelley said, noting that surveys show that 68 percent of the people were opposed to roundabouts before they were constructed but after implementation of a roundabout, there was zero percent opposition and it turned to 73 percent in favor of having a roundabout.
“A lot of people mistake a traffic circle for a roundabout,” said Kelley. “They are vastly different and actually, traffic circles arebeing replaced across the nation with properly designed roundabouts.
‘But safety is the most important and biggest benefit of all,” he added.
The next meeting of the Enterprise City Council is Tuesday, April 20, in the Enterprise City Hall Council Chambers. A work session begins at 5 p.m. A voting meeting begins at 6 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public.