Photo Intern: Graham Robson The City of Duluth officials along with staff from the Glancy Rehab Center cut the ribbon for the new roundabout on McClure Bridge road on Thursday. The roundabout was used to safely merge McClure Bridge road and Irvindale road; the roundabout can also be easily expanded to accommodate an additional road.
DULUTH -- Nancy Harris wondered aloud Thursday: "I think this is the first time I've ever referred to a traffic project as being beautiful."
But with a grassy knoll in the center of Duluth's new roundabout, and plans to add an art installation in the next year, the mayor said she was excited to cut a ribbon on a project that not only improved conditions for drivers and added sidewalks for walkers but adds an attractive gateway to the city's historic area.
"I'm excited," Harris said. "It was the safest way for these roads to come together."
Thursday's ceremony marked the end to a project that dated back a decade, to the city's first major downtown redevelopment study, known as the Livable Centers Initiative.
At a cost of about $2 million, construction took about a year, although recycling paving materials helped in speeding the effort to rebuild McClure Bridge Road, adding curb and gutter, sidewalks and drainage structures.
"What a change in our environment, and we are just loving it," said Councilwoman Marsha Anderson Bomar, a transportation engineer by trade who walked to the ribbon-cutting from her downtown Duluth townhome. "It's really going to impress you how well everything flows."
After police officers reopened the roundabout after the ribbon-cutting, Bomar stopped to watch as lines of cars merged from three roads -- West Lawrenceville Street, McClure Bridge Road and Irvindale Road.
"They are doing it perfectly," Bomar said of drivers navigating the roundabout, which is the fourth to open in Gwinnett but the first in the city. "I never see any traffic backed up here."
In the time since the roundabout opened late last month, Police Chief Randy Belcher said there have been no reported accidents.
In a year or so, construction will begin on a fourth road to converge at the site -- a hospital connector which will travel about a mile from Ga. Highway 120 at a new entrance for Duluth High School. Officials said the roundabout had to be completed before the federally funded connector could move forward in its engineering work.
"Transportation projects are like building blocks," Bomar said. "You have to know exactly what you are doing with one before you know what is right with the other."
In the meantime, Harris's Gateway Art Project committee is raising money and gathering ideas to add an art piece at the juncture. And area residents are exploring the new sidewalks.
Lea Bay, the president of Gwinnett Medical Center -- Duluth and the Joan Glancy Rehabilitation Center campus, the latter of which is located at the roundabout, said she has watched as employees incorporate a walk break into their day, or choose to walk to the nearby hospital instead of driving.
She described the rounabout as "an elegant solution to a high traffic problem."