Second roundabout considered for Community House

City planners are about ready to see construction begin on improving a portion of Community House Road near Ardrey Kell High School. But the other piece of the puzzle still needs some work.

The city has split its Community House project into two pieces – one from Providence Road West to Ardrey Kell Road and the other north from Providence Road West to Bryant Farms Road. The split was made, according to project manager Joe Frey, in order to get something done as soon as possible near Ardrey Kell High School in what’s become a trouble area for congestion and pedestrian safety.

“We’re putting Phase 1 out to bid as soon as possible,” Frey said, adding that construction could start this summer – taking advantage of fewer vehicles on the road around the campus. “There are improvements that are really needed down there and we’re all anxious to get done what we can get done for the benefit of safety for the kids walking to school.”

In an interview in 2012, Ardrey Kell High’s parent-teacher group said as many as 50 students walk to school each day despite there not being a completed sidewalk connecting the campus to area neighborhoods.

“The crux of it is getting some sidewalks in (near the school) to all those new neighborhoods south of Community House Road,” Frey said. “There are huge gaps in the sidewalk on both sides of the street, and I’ve seen kids walking on the shoulder of the road to school and that’s a real safety concern. I know folks in that area are anxious to see those.”

That first phase of construction should last around nine months, and will cost the city around $3.25 million. Along with additional sidewalk work, the plan will include a designated left turn lane from Community House onto Ardrey Kell, instead of the left turn/straight lane currently in place, which contributes to traffic back ups.

Frey said the city is ready for all that work to come together as soon as a contractor is picked in the next few months. The second part of the project, however, still needs a lot of planning before work can begin.

City planners decided a long time ago to add a roundabout, or traffic circle, at the intersection of Bryant Farms and Community House roads, near the Morrison YMCA. But when the city learned a local developer, the Bissell Companies, planned to build a bridge on Community House Road that would increase the amount of traffic seen on the stretch, planners realized their roundabout wouldn’t be big enough to handle the increase in volume.

So, a larger roundabout is needed, which means planners had to go back to the drawing board in order to come up with the right structure. And while that might help move traffic through the intersection better than the current stop signs, residents in the nearby Cobblestone neighborhood say the roundabout likely will just mean more traffic with fewer breaks moving past their already burdened entrance.

“It’s a dangerous exit,” one resident said. “Sometimes we have to just get on (Community House) and spin our wheels to speed up in front of traffic. There’s a real safety problem there.”

The alternative, Frey said, may be to add a second, smaller, roundabout at Willow Rock drive – the entrance to Cobblestone. One resident this week said the idea hasn’t gained much favor in the community, and neighbors are hoping the city can come up with something better. A traffic light at Bryant Farms and Community House isn’t an option, though a temporary one may be put there while the roundabout is built.

Frey said it could be two or three years before construction starts on Community House north of Providence Road West. The city isn’t yet sure how much traffic new sports fields at Morrison YMCA will add to area congestion, which must be factored into the overall decision of whether to add a second roundabout.

Once planning is complete, “we’ll be able to design the right thing and build the right thing, though it’s taking a few years, instead of building it now and then scratching our heads in a few years trying to think of ways to improve it.”

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