More than a few Gateway residents are unhappy with the Lee County Board of Commissioners for voting on March 19 to place a roundabout at the intersection of Gateway Boulevard and Griffin Drive. They’ve been voicing their displeasure on various social media sites and at the most recent Gateway Services District meetings saying would have strongly preferred a traffic signal.
They’re not alone.
The South Trail Fire District is going to be building a new fire station at that intersection in the next couple of years. They, too, would have preferred a traffic light.
At the October 20, 2016 meeting of Gateway’s Board of Supervisors, South Trail’s Division Chief of Support Services & Logistics Chris Wolfe told Gateway’s elected officials, “As to the question of a traffic light versus roundabout, we are 100% more pro-traffic light. For one, it wouldn’t intrude on our property – how that [roundabout] radius would work. Access would be drastically increased for us to get in and out.”
Gateway Vice-Chairman Bill Guy agreed.
“I would be in favor of a traffic light or other device as opposed to roundabouts,” Guy recently told the News-Press. “I know that some of the engineers think they are wonderful but take up an awful lot of ground and it takes a lot of time for people to get used to it.”
Gateway Supervisor Doug Banks told the Gateway Sun: “Based on the statement made by the South Trail Fire District official at one of our meetings a little while ago favoring a traffic light, I would also support a traffic light over a roundabout at that intersection.”
Banks stressed that he doesn’t actually have a preference between a roundabout or traffic lights per se, but that he wanted to voice his support for the South Trail Fire District’s needs.
Despite overwhelming support from the community and Gateway’s leaders for a traffic light, the Lee commissioners sided with the recommendation from the county’s Department of Transportation, which was to go with a roundabout.
To be clear, LCDOT have two pretty solid reasons for their roundabout recommendation.
First, as Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass has stated (and the Sun has also heard this from a different source) there simply is not enough traffic at that intersection to warrant traffic signals.
Second, traffic signals would substantially slow down traffic at that intersection compared to a roundabout. Roundabouts are designed to keep traffic constantly flowing while eliminating all left turns.
While those are the key reasons, another reason for a roundabout would be that a number of trees would possibly have to be chopped down or pared back to accommodate traffic signals in order to ensure the lights are visible from at least 1000 feet away.
Yet another reason? Roundabouts are less costly.
So I get it. And I can definitely envision that a roundabout would ensure the flow of traffic a LOT better than traffic lights. I didn’t really see it that way at first, but now I do.
That said, I cannot help but circle back to the South Trail Fire District.
South Trail specifically asked for a traffic signal both in public, and (as I understand it) in private meetings with LCDOT. We all know that traffic signals outside fire stations are common in Lee County and throughout America.
Obviously, the Fire District has its reasons for wanting a traffic light so it’s kind of hard not to back them up on their request.
But while South Trail are “100%” in favor of traffic lights, the Board of County Commissioners voted 0% in favor of traffic lights.
So the county will be spending $187,000 to design a roundabout at Gateway’s busiest intersection. I believe the roundabout should be built sometime in 2021.