Friday, March 25, 2011

Augusta County: $300,000 traffic circle versus better fire protection?

For many who follow Augusta County politics fairly closely, this week's disclosure of plans to build a traffic circle, referred to these days as a roundabout, at the Wilson Complex in Fishersville at the cost of almost $300,000 raised some eyebrows. After all, Augusta County has been dealing with serious fire coverage issues the past year in addition to school board cuts so the sudden appearance of so much money for an issue that had not been on the public radar was surprising.

At Wednesday night's supervisor meeting, it was obviously a done deal presented by Supervisor Wendell Coleman, who works in the Wilson Complex, as it was agreed and voted on by the board, and sent to be built during the summer 2011 before school begins.

To my knowledge, there was no previous public input on the issue, and there was certainly no public discussion Wednesday night. Supervisor Jeremy Shifflett rubber-stamped the project and took money out of his own district to support this questionable project.

Traffic circles were fairly common in Richmond at one time. However, VDOT did away with them thirty or forty years ago and replaced them with regular intersections to decrease the number of traffic accidents. There's confusion by some when they enter a roundabout ... do they slow down, speed up -- oops, missed the exit so slam on brakes? The result was banged-up cars.

Add to the mix students from the high school and vocational school plus large, bulky school buses and visitors from out of the area.

What has been needed for years is another roadway out of the complex. That area is a ticking time bomb waiting for a major emergency when everyone would need to exit at the same time out the one, narrow road leading to Rt. 250 -- students, employees of Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center and the school board offices, as well as private homes in the area. Add a roundabout to the mix and one has to wonder if traffic would move faster or bog down.

The timing just doesn't seem right for a traffic circle in light of all the other pressing financial issues on the table. The Staunton News Leader weighed in on the issue in a recent editorial, opining that a traffic circle would not solve the problem. NBC-29 has a diagram of the proposed roundabout.

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