The roundabout at Highway 144 and Belfast River Road should be finished on schedule, according to county officials.
The traffic circle’s paving has been completed, and temporary road markings have been painted. Workers started installing the curbing separating the roundabout’s lanes Wednesday and will “probably be done by the end of the week with the project,” County Engineer Kirk Croasmun said at Tuesday night’s Bryan County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Commissioners are now shifting their concern to ensuring that drivers use the roundabout correctly.
“They have to understand the right-of-way,” Commissioner Steve Myers said. “The guy in the circle has the right-of-way.”
A driver who pulls up to the traffic circle is supposed to wait for an opening in traffic and then turn right to enter the roundabout. The driver then is to make another right turn onto one of the circle’s exit roads.
However, Myers said he observed the roundabout for a couple hours from the nearby fire station and counted five cars that turned the wrong way onto the traffic circle. The drivers were eastbound on Highway 144 and, accustomed to turning left to enter the South Bryan County Administrative Complex, made left turns onto the roundabout to access Capt. Matthew Freeman Drive.
“I could not believe what they were doing,” Myers said.
“You could hit somebody head-on,” Commissioners Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said.
Myers explained that he and fellow Commissioner Carter Infinger asked the work crew to place barrels around the circle to help direct the flow of traffic. Myers said he has not seen any drivers making wrong turns since the barrels have been in place.
“The problem is, the barrels are going to be gone, and people are going to take a left turn again,” Myers said. “It needs to have a ‘one-way’ sign.”
That concern has been shared with the Georgia Department of Transportation, Croasmun said, because Highway 144 is a state road. The state’s response was, “We’ll monitor it” once the work has been completed, he said.
Croasmun also pointed out that the barrels will be replaced by traffic bollards. The short posts will delineate the lanes of the roundabout and direct its traffic flow.
“We’re not totally done yet,” Croasmun said.
County leaders maintained from the project’s inception that their main concern was having it completed before the start of school on Aug. 3. Richmond Hill Middle School and the new McAllister Elementary are near the roundabout.
Drivers have more than two weeks to acclimate themselves to the roundabout before school starts. Burnsed stressed that the speed limit on Highway 144 drops from 55 mph to 45 and then to 35 approaching the traffic circle.
“I did take a carload of teenagers to go around the roundabout and show them how to do it,” Infinger said. “They had never done one.”
More changes will be made to the roundabout in the future. A widening of Highway 144 from Timber Trail to Port Royal Road is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2016.
“When 144 is widened, the roundabout is going to be redone permanently at that point,” Croasmun said. “Remember, this is temporary. We wanted to get this in to make sure we had traffic control for the school.”