Roundabout hoped to ease traffic flow near airport exit

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

CALERA — Shelby County officials and the Alabama Department of Transportation are hopeful that a newly installed traffic circle, otherwise known as a roundabout, at the intersection of Weather Vane Road and Shelby County 87 near the Shelby County Airport exit will have a positive impact on traffic flow.

The circle should make it easier for large trucks to navigate the intersection, which serves Shelby West Corporate Park, the airport and the National Weather Service Birmingham headquarters. Shelby County Engineer Randy Cole said trucks were experiencing difficulty making left turns there due to the high volume of traffic on 87.

“The intersection of County Road 87 and Weather Vane Road is a high-congestion intersection,” Cole said.

Cole explained that the Shelby County Commission looked at the option of installing a traffic signal, but the overall consensus was that a standard traffic light might hamper traffic attempting to exit Interstate 65 southbound.

“We did not want the queue of a traffic signal to back up and cause folks to come to a standstill on the Interstate,” he explained.

Because ALDOT concurred with the county’s assessment that a roundabout would be a good approach to resolving the issue, ALDOT awarded a $1 million-plus grant to fund the project.

The roundabout is substantially complete; crews must install the final layer of asphalt and will do so, weather permitting, beginning Sunday, May 2, during night hours. Once the asphalt is cured, the final thermoplastic striping layer will be put down and the final signage installed, Cole said.

“The public has had to be very patient with us during construction because it’s causing some congestion, but very soon we will be out of their way,” he said.

Calera City Engineer Chris Pappas said he was in favor of the roundabout approach because it creates natural pauses and gaps in traffic patterns resulting in a smoother overall flow of traffic.

Pappas indicated he believes motorists will come to appreciate it once people become accustomed to the new feature.

“We think it’s an improvement to that intersection,” he said. “It’s kind of a growing trend with DOT.”