Dunwoody City Council agreed to complete the design for improvements at Womack and Vermack roads, despite loud complaints from neighbors who don’t want to see a traffic circle installed at the intersection.
Earlier this month, the council voted to remove construction funding for the project from the 2013 budget. But at its Nov. 12 meeting, the council agreed that design studies should be completed.
About half of the funds allocated have been spent on the design work for the congested intersection near Dunwoody High School.
Engineers say building a traffic circle will improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety. But nearby residents are staunchly opposed to the idea. They came to the council’s meeting dressed in red and carrying signs to show their opposition to the project.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, opponents pleaded with council to listen to their concerns.
Rosemary Gorham, a Vermack Road resident, argued that the roundabout would make it unsafe for her children to walk to school.
“If traffic does not have to stop, it will not stop,” Gorham said.
She pointed to the crowd behind her, to show the number of people who are against the roundabout. “These are the people that voted you in. Please listen to us.”
Public Works Director Michael Smith said “a lot of engineering” would go into the final design. There are three options at the intersection, he said: leave it as is, install a traffic signal or build a traffic circle.
“We’re confident the roundabout is a viable option, but there’s certainly time to consider other options,” Smith said.
After the design work is done, the council can reconsider whether to go ahead with construction of the project.
After the council voted to pull construction funding for the project, Councilman Terry Nall visited the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on Nov. 4 to ask members to lend their support to the project.
Nall told the DHA he felt that the council showed they will bend to small groups of vocal opponents when it comes to road projects. “I think we have a lack of backbone here,” Nall said.
He asked for the DHA to take a stand in favor of letting the design process for the roundabout continue.
“It’s going to come back to haunt us at Tilly Mill if we don’t fix this,” Nall said, referring to a proposed intersection improvement at the busy corner of Tilly Mill and North Peachtree roads.
Several DHA members said they would like to see the roundabout have another chance.
Transportation advocate Bob Dallas said in almost all neighborhoods where traffic circles have been built, there has been initial community opposition because the concept is so foreign.
“They are new and it does take a learning curve,” Dallas said. “People will adapt.”
But State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, said he believes the community opposition is rooted in poor communication about the project from City Council and staff.
“This is bigger than Womack and Vermack. It’s a communication issue,” Millar said. “You guys didn’t do your homework. We can’t bail you out at this point.”