Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Dunwoody High School Roundabout
The City of Dunwoody held an informational meeting at Dunwoody High School on September 20th to discuss possible intersection improvements at Womack Rd and Vermack Road. Three options were presented, do nothing, install a signalized intersection with dedicated turn lanes or install a single lane roundabout.
City engineers are recommending the roundabout because the signalized intersection would have more impact on adjacent properties, cost more, and be less safe for travelers. The roundabout provides individual crossing locations with middle of the road refuge islands whereby the pedestrian only has to look one way at a time to cross the street therefore it is deemed the safest design for pedestrians. There is a lower average speed though the intersection as compared to a signal which means less severe crashes and with the constant circular movement it eliminates turning conflicts and therefore crashes.
I attended the September 20th meeting and talked to a number of people. Some were immediate neighbors who lived on Womack or Vermack, some were Dunwoody High School Parents who were in the building for Senior Night and poked in to see what was up and others were general community people who wanted to be informed. I listened to both Pro and Con but there was a consensus that the signalized intersection was overkill and completely out of character. Then there were those who liked the roundabout but had individual concerns over a specific topic within the design and others who wanted no change what so ever to the intersection. These folks believed that this improvement would do little for Dunwoody residents and would only increase the Gwinnettians cut through traffic to Perimeter Center.
Since I attended the meeting to see the possible designs for the first time, I too walked into the door with concerns and my main one was pedestrian safety in a roundabout. How would it work and how would an influx of pedestrians at one time be able to safely cross the streets? If there was an influx of pedestrians (say a intermittent stream for 20 minutes), how would that affect the traffic flow of the intersection? Could a parent rightfully allow an older elementary student to use this intersection to walk to school? Could my slow walking elderly neighbor or someone in a wheelchair safely use this civic improvement intended for all?
After reviewing the refuge island designs, I had a better feel for the safety of some pedestrians but the system is still completely reliant on the fact that all drivers must "Yield to Pedestrians". This week a resident forwarded a letter to the City with concerns in the design and asked us to go back to the drawing table but in doing so she also forwarded us wonderful research on pedestrian safety in roundabouts.
Intersections need to be made not just for cars, but for people on a personal scale (including children, elderly and those in a wheelchair). I had a long conversation with our Public Works Director who is now researching what added safety devices (be it Flashing Yellow beacons or in-pavement flashers or a combination of the two activated by a pedestrian push button, raised or bricked crosswalks; or just improved markings) which could be included in the final roundabout design up for consideration. I believe that new city infrastructure should always foster improved walkablity for all residents and at the very least we should strive to never be a hinderent to our own mobility so that may we all age in place to enjoy this wonderful community.
At the meeting the participants were told that the Womack entrance (Western driveway near intersection) to Dunwoody High School would be closed and the traffic flow onto and off that parking lot would have to change. I talked to both Dunwoody High parents as well as Womack residents who live adjacent to the current exit out of that parking lot, both of whom saw this as the biggest obstacle to having a safe intersection design as this change is directly related.
For your information the City is exploring various options and I believe they are presenting preliminary plans at the next City Council meeting (moved off the regular date) on October 15th. I look forward to seeing an updated, pedestrian friendly roundabout design while also working with the DeKalb County School System where we can adequately find a solution to serving the school safely too.
The City is still taking public comment on this intersection so please give us suggestions. Give us feedback if you love it, hate it, or if you believe we shouldn't do it at all.