FOLEY – Traffic circles will replace stop signs at two Foley intersections on Michigan Avenue under plans approved by the City Council.

The council voted Monday, Feb. 5, to approve a professional services proposal from Thompson Engineering to design traffic circles at the intersections of East Michigan Avenue and Juniper Street and West Michigan Avenue and Cedar Street.

A study by Thompson found that traffic circles would be the best way to relieve congestion at the intersections. Mayor Ralph Hellmich said roundabouts would be cheaper than traffic lights at the sites.

“It was really a no-brainer on the roundabout,” Hellmich said. “At Juniper and Michigan, the traffic signal actually escalated the costs so drastically that it really wasn’t a question about doing it this way.”

He said the cost of the signal at Cedar Street would have been about $4 million.

Hellmich said the Cedar Street site will have to be designed around utility lines that run through the intersection. 

The mayor said building traffic circles will also allow the city to improve sidewalks in the areas around the intersections.

“We think this will also lend to improving the sidewalks,” Hellmich said. “This will also include a general upgrade of the sidewalks in all four directions. It’s a comprehensive upgrade at this intersection which is a really big choke point on that street.”

While Foley has some roundabouts in areas such as Pride Drive, some city drivers might not be accustomed to the circles.

“We have traffic circles in Foley however they’re not heavily used,” Hellmich said. “They’re not on main roads. Yes, it will be a learning experience for everybody but I think it will work. The neat thing about traffic circles is you’re pretty much continuously moving whereas stoplights and four-ways you’re not.”

He said city officials also considered building a traffic circle on Hickory Street at an intersection that will be maintained by Baldwin County in the future. Traffic at that site, however, was heavy enough that officials determined that a signal light would be needed.

“That was one of the reasons why we didn’t go with the roundabout at Hickory that we’re given to the county,” Hellmich said. “That was so close to the roundabout capacity that it was just a no-brainer. So that one’s a signal.”