Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

COVINGTON -- A project 11 years in the making is finally complete. The roundabout at the intersection of Turner Lake Road and Clark Street opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Elected officials, city of Covington staff, project contractors and others gathered for a ribbon cutting and short press conference prior to the opening.

"Change is fearful to some but I think this is going to be a good change," said Mayor Kim Carter. The roundabout is intended to reduce traffic congestion and accidents at the busy intersection, which Carter said has been the site of several fatalities.

An underground pedestrian tunnel leading into Turner Lake Park is also open. Carter said eventually the tunnel will connect to a multi-use trail system running from Turner Lake to the Newton County Library and then on to Eastside High School.

The master plan for the roundabout was conceived in 1999. Newton County paid for the initial traffic study. The Arnold Fund paid for the preliminary engineering, beginning in 2002. The Fowler Family Foundation donated the land to the county in 2000. The Georgia Department of Transportation committed funds several years later. The construction cost was $775,622 and was paid through federal stimulus money.

Former Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey, during whose tenure the bulk of planning for the roundabout took place, said it will "improve the quality of life on this side of town.

"I think people are going to really like it in a few months and all the negative comments will disappear," he said.

Of public criticism of the project, Covington's Planning Director Randy Vinson noted the same was true when Turner Lake Park was in the works. Vinson, at that time the county's special projects coordinator, oversaw construction on the park.

"There were a lot of naysayers. 'What are you doing putting a park on this side of town?' I think the roundabout will work very smooth," Vinson said. "A year from now, it'll be like finding folks that voted for Nixon. No one will want to say, 'We never thought it would work.'"