A Senate Candidate Demonstrates a Lack of Knowledge About Georgia’s Transportation Needs

Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao is one of the two Republican challengers for Johnny Isakson’s Senate seat. You may remember her name. She also ran for State School Superintendent during the 2014 election cycle. Bacallao is running a low-budget campaign, having raised under $10,000 through April 15th. To make up for the lack of funds, she has taken to social media, posting her positions on issues on her page, as well as the pages of conservative groups, and asking those who read them to share her message with others.

I figured I would help her out. This morning, she posted the following on her Facebook page:

Why are federal transportation taxes, paid by Georgians, financing expensive “roundabouts” in local communities? Who asked for roundabouts? Why can’t we just have traffic signals? Once a roundabout is built, it is much more difficult to construct additional lanes for travel as needed. Roundabouts slow travel down and increase commute times. Imagine if the money spent on roundabouts was spent on two new interstate highways in Georgia, one going North/South and one going East/West that did not go through ATLANTA? The trucks passing through our state would not be driving through Atlanta! What if the federal transportation money was actually used to decrease traffic congestion? Look at all the time that is wasted sitting in traffic. We need smart people in D.C. who can solve traffic problems, not use your tax dollars to create them. Send a problem solver to D.C. – Vote Mary Kay Bacallao on May 24th.

Bacallao clearly doesn’t understand how roundabouts work, or their benefits. According to information provided by GDOT, “Roundabouts can offer a good solution to safety and capacity problems at an intersection. At intersections where roundabouts have been installed to replace existing intersections, accidents of all types have been reduced by over 35 percent, and injury accidents have been reduced by over 60 percent.” An AJC story from last August provides more details about Georgia’s roundabouts, and how they have reduced accidents and improved traffic flow. Priceonomics also makes a strong case for installing additional roundabouts.

Let’s set the candidate’s lack of understanding regarding roundabouts aside for a moment, and instead look at her ideas for an alternative way to spend transportation dollars. Rather than roundabouts, Bacallao wants to build two new interstate highways, one north-south and the other east-west, that would keep trucks off the roads around Atlanta. In this case, the misunderstanding is at two levels.

Bacallao appears to think that these interstates could be funded with the money currently spent on roundabouts. A quick back of the envelope calculation says that the two interstates would include roughly 550 centerlane miles to reach up, down, and across Georgia. That’s at least 2,500 miles of pavement, given there would have to be a minimum of two lanes in each direction. According to the AJC story referenced above, there are presently no more than 200 roundabouts in the Peach State today. If each roundabout used two lane miles of pavement, which is extremely generous, that’s 400 lane miles. There’s no way the cost of 400 lane miles of roundabouts is the same as 2,500 miles of interstate.

Bacallao’s bait and switch from roundabouts to interstates also reveals a lack of understanding about the Georgia DOT has a comprehensive freight corridor plan that deals not only with highways, but with rail, pipelines, and other transportation modes. She doesn’t understand how Georgia’s inland ports let freight move by rail from where it is unloaded in Savannah or Brunswick, keeping trucks off the road. And she may not realize that much of the truck traffic around Atlanta is destined for the metro area, where Hartsfield Jackson airport and the Peach State’s logistics industry is located.

Wrapping up, Bacallao says “we need smart people in D.C. who can solve traffic problems.” Based on the evidence, I’ll let the reader decide if she is the right person to do that job for Georgia.

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MidGaRetiree
MidGaRetiree

I often think that the reason a person opposes a roundabout is the concept confuses them and they have difficulty navigating them. Don’t know that they need a driver’s license.

Teri
Teri

If you have the wherewithal to operate a couple of tons of American steel, you should be able to circumnavigate a circle.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I worry that if we were to send Dr.* Bacallo to D.C. she’d get stuck in DuPont Circle like Clark Griswold in European Vacation.

*I find the use of Dr. by anyone other than licensed MDs, DOs, and DDSs to be completely unnecessary.

Raleigh
Raleigh

I am not taking the good Phd’s side but I now have a roundabout I must navigate and I have a few observations. I was a skeptic of roundabouts, emphasis on the was. They do work, sort of. I like many commuters once sat at a 4 way stop intersection in Milton. Traffic backed up sometime for a half mile in the rush hour directions. Now I rarely have any wait time in the direction I travel at that one intersection. Win for me! But the unfortunate people who are coming in to my right not so much. Their line… Read more »

Will Durant
Will Durant

Sounds like the next 4-way should be made into a roundabout as well. The statistics don’t lie. Single-lane roundabouts are roughly 20 percent more efficient in moving cars through an intersection with heavy traffic than a traditional 4-way stop. They have fewer accidents and something like 90% less fatalities than either stop sign or traffic signal 4-ways. I did a couple of one-year stints in Europe many years ago and came back scratching my head over why we didn’t do more of them here. One reason perhaps is a driver’s license in European countries is not a gimmee. They cost… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

You haven’t experienced a roundabout until the Arc de Triomphe – two inches of clearance is std. – this video does not do it justice when it gets busy – they get to be a lot of fun in right hand drive countries……
I still like them and we don’t have enough of them.

https://youtu.be/Fpn4QYc-x5I

Will Durant
Will Durant

OK, I stand corrected. Parisians and Italians don’t count. Seriously though that is a traffic circle which I’ve also run into in the past around Boston. The difference is that in a circle those already in the intersection have to yield, which IMO is insane. In a roundabout those entering the intersection have to yield. Dupont Circle in DC as I recall is its own hybrid and not really a roundabout either. I’ve driven in multi-lane roundabouts in England with no issues other than the wrong side of the road thing. I just don’t see the multi-lane ones ever working… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

How not to approach a roundabout!

davidmac
davidmac

I love roundabouts. I think they’re great for reducing accidents and improving traffic flow. My biggest problem is the fools who slow down and stop before entering even when there’s no circulating traffic. Keep moving!

bethebalance
bethebalance

i’m surprised that i am the one having to point this out, but it’s highly unlikely the candidate raised this issue as fodder for serious policy discussion. rather, it’s just meant to rile up that part of the electorate that sees anything new/ different/European-ish as evidence of liberalism/classism/socialism. as for roundabouts, provided they are used by educated/aware drivers (which is its own real problem), the laws of time and space dictate they will be more successful. of course, for that argument to be successful, you also have to put faith in science. which is a quality not necessarily associated with… Read more »

zedsmith
zedsmith

As much as I like roundabouts— the european traffic import I really want to see adopted here is the zipper merge.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merge_(traffic)

Noway2016
Noway2016

The best roundabout I ever encountered was in a tiny town outside of Reykjavik. I was the only one even in a vehicle as far as the eye could see. I went around it twice in celebration!