ABOVE: Traffic circle and signage in Bellevue’s Beech Bend neighborhood. // Vince Troia photo
By VINCE TROIA
First came the traffic calming strips, those raised white lines that vibrate the steering wheel and prompt drivers to let up on the gas pedal.
Now the traffic circles, or roundabouts, are finding their way ’round Bellevue neighborhoods.
For more than a half-decade, ideas to slow speeding drivers in a growing Bellevue community have been proposed, but until recently those were met with scrutiny, criticism, and disdain. Residents called roundabouts confusing, unnecessary, and even dangerous as replacements for stop signs.
So it may prove more confusing for drivers on Sawyer Brown Road in a few weeks when another roundabout is installed. That’s because this traffic circle at a key intersection in the River Plantation community is not meant to slow traffic at all. Rather it is being designed to keep traffic flowing.
Councilwoman Sheri Weiner reported last week that construction has begun on a long-awaited roundabout at the intersection of Sawyer Brown and Todd Preis roads, for years the site of long backups during rush hours.
“The work will not take place during rush hour and is expected to be completed in 45 to 60 days,” Weiner said. “It will be a welcome improvement that enhances traffic flow.”
The problem at the four-way stop has been the lopsided traffic flows of the two streets. There are nearly 12 cars on Sawyer Brown for every one vehicle traveling on Todd Preis. The roundabout is designed to allow Sawyer Brown traffic to keep moving — albeit slowly — rather than making a full stop for virtually no cross traffic.
Lanes will be open in all directions during construction.
The part of Sawyer Brown that bottlenecks often is a stretch that runs between Highway 70 South and Old Harding Pike. Although the Todd Pries intersection creates a lengthy rush-hour backup, it is one of two four-way stops along Sawyer Brown. Residents wonder why two roundabouts weren’t planned.
“I truly don’t understand why you didn’t eliminate both stop signs,” resident Joshua Boyd responded to a Facebook post by Weiner alerting residents of the upcoming installation. “There is still going to be a bottleneck, right?”
Weiner said the concept of two circles was discussed, and funding wasn’t an issue, but has not elaborated.
Traffic circles along Harpeth Parkway West, McPherson Drive, and Harpeth Bend Drive were installed in recent weeks to deter speeding in residential neighborhoods. As Bellevue traffic thickens along Highway 100 and Old Harding Pike, commuters have starting using neighborhood shortcuts.
“There had to be some alternatives to get speeders to slow down,” homeowner Keith Sawyers told WKRN. Unlike folks in River Plantation who complained bitterly about the roundabout there, residents in the Harpeth Bend area welcomed them.