After nearly a decade, the construction of the roundabout at Atoka-Idaville and Rosemark is expected to begin in March 2021. Photo by Jeff Ireland

Closures will be coming soon to a very busy intersection in Atoka as the long-awaited roundabout project gets underway.

The Town of Atoka announced construction will begin on Monday, March 22 on the state-funded traffic control measure.

On April 5, a 90-day closure at the corner of Atoka-Idaville and Rosemark roads will begin.

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The detour will take motorists around Portersville and Faulkner roads, city officials said during a meeting of the board of mayor and aldermen Tuesday night.

It’s not going to be an ideal situation, though, and Atoka Public Works will be doing road work prior to the April closure.

“Let’s face it, the detour route’s gonna handle more traffic than those roads were really designed for, in all honesty, so we need to make sure they’re as good as they can be for the condition they’re currently in,” said town administrator Mark Woerner. “(We’re going to) try to tidy them up where we can and see how things run forward during the 90-day period.”

The roundabout project, which has been in the works for the better part of a decade, is not necessarily a popular project in Atoka. Residents are unhappy with it – many would prefer a stoplight instead – and the road closure during the school year isn’t helping. To add fuel to the fire, the detour itself is frustrating many of the people who live in the area and will experience longer-than-normal wait times at other nearby intersections, such as Atoka-Idaville and Meade Lake roads.

The new design proposal was released a year ago by TetraTech, the firm assisting the Town of Atoka and the TDOT.

Woerner said the state has chosen the detour route itself, and for very good reasons.

“The local folks are going to find their own way around, I’m sure some will be using the northern detour route from Portersville to Faulkner to Main Street to 51 that way … and there have been questions about why the detour route is what the detour route is. Part of that reason is TDOT only wants one signed detour route. They also have to take into consideration every type of vehicular traffic, and that includes tractor-trailers, so while there may be other routes that would make more sense logistically, those particular roads are not designed for ambulances or tractor-trailers to maneuver through some very skinny roads and S-turns. That would just create havoc for the amount of traffic that’s going to be coming through there.”

There will still be temporary access for those who use the daycare and those who use the storage facility, both of which are located at the intersection.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates the intersection will reopen on July 4 and the project will be completed on Aug. 24.

“We’re going to have issues and we’re going to have complaints, but we’re going to go ahead and get it done,” said mayor Darryl Walker.

The 2012 decision to install the roundabout, rather than a traffic signal, came because the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Town of Atoka collaborated on a plan to keep traffic moving, rather than stopping, Woerner said in November.

“You won’t have to wait on lights, there are less accidents. Once folks who use the Atoka-Idaville – Rosemark Road intersection on a regular basis use the roundabout a few times they’ll appreciate having it instead of a signalized intersection.”

Federal Highway Administration studies show roundabouts result in a 90 percent reduction in fatal collisions, 76 percent reduction in injury collisions, 37 percent reduction in overall collisions and a 40 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions.

Once in place, it will be Tipton County’s only modern roundabout.

The estimated cost of the project is $1.3 million.