Mayor begins push for more roundabouts

Published 9:57 am Saturday, April 1, 2023

Oxford is known for many things – home of literary giants, the state’s flagship university and its beloved Grove, thriving business and research efforts, a leading retirement community, and more.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill believes there is room for another Oxford accolade, and she intends to tackle her latest vision for the city with the same vigor that has made her one of the most popular mayors in recent years.

“My goal is for Oxford to be known as the Roundabout Capital of the World,” she said this week in an interview about her recent trip to Washington, D.C., to tout a number of infrastructure projects she and other city leaders are considering.

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“Everyone gets a good laugh when people call me Roundabout Robyn, but that’s a moniker I wear with honor,” Tannehill said. “Roundabouts were a new idea when we put the first ones in, and over the years I’ve come to realize that roundabouts really are the key to a prosperous Oxford in years to come. That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate my remaining time as mayor to constructing as many as possible in the city.”

Tannehill said the next site is the congested area of Jackson Avenue at the stoplight in front of WalMart.

“Oh, yeah, that light has to go,” she said. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars on studies of all kinds from traffic to environmental issues and that stoplight alone is spewing an unbelievable amount of pollutants into our air from idling motors.”

Tannehill said she hopes to see between “six and eight” roundabouts constructed on Jackson Avenue within the next 24 months. “I haven’t had a chance to meet with the aldermen yet, but I have a plan that I hope they will be able to appreciate. I think once they see what I have sketched out they will be right on board with the plan.”

Following Jackson Avenue, the mayor said University Avenue is next. “It’s just natural that we would place the next five or six roundabouts there. After that, I will be looking for other places  that would be suitable.”

“My goal has always been to leave Oxford a better town than when I started as mayor and this accomplishes that one several layers. First, we will have so much less traffic congestion and much less carbon monoxide in our air. Second, I firmly believe that this will be one more tourism boost for Oxford – what family traveling anywhere near our area wouldn’t make the time to visit the Roundabout Capital of the World? I have a company working on branding and art now, and it won’t be long before we will be able to roll out merchandise with our new claim to fame.”

Questioned about the expense of such an ambitious undertaking, Tannehill brushed aside worries of costs. “Don’t worry, they will pay for themselves in extra traffic in town. The people who come to see the roundabouts will need places to eat and sleep. It’s just like a big football or baseball weekend. People will have one more reason to visit Oxford.”

The mayor says any budget shortfalls would be covered by an additional plan to install parking meters on Old Taylor Road.

“We’ve kind of kicked this idea around for a while, too, but while I was in D.C. I saw parking meters everywhere and it made me more determined to get them installed on Old Taylor Road,” she said. “In fact, I’m probably going to bring that up at our first April meeting.”

Several business owners with establishments on Jackson and University Avenues were alarmed at the mayor’s plan, but would not go on the record to criticize her proposals.

“I’m really worried about Jackson being torn up for construction this fall in the middle of football season, but no one wants to be the person to say that maybe we should think about other options here. No one wants to cross Robyn on a roundabout for sure,” said one business owner who asked to not be identified.

Tannehill had a quick response. “Look, one thing I was reminded of in Washington is that all the great leaders and great decisions that helped make America the best country in the world had people opposing their plan. They knew they were right and didn’t get distracted by the whiners.”

“They can thank me later when my roundabouts help take Oxford to the next level of economic achievement, and make our little town the envy of city planners and traffic engineers all over the world,” she said.

Tannehill added that she isn’t entirely against traditional stop signs and traffic signals, and even considers them quaint reminders of a simpler Oxford.

“Don’t worry, we won’t get rid of every stoplight,” she assured the Eagle. “There will be one, maybe two, that we sort of consider off limits to roundabouts, just so we can have a little piece of the old Oxford to remember.”

For now, the mayor said, residents can manage the growing traffic problems of Oxford as best possible, knowing that relief is on the way.

“I want everyone to be safe and know their mayor wakes up every morning thinking about roundabouts and hits the pillow at night dreaming of a day when cars no longer sit at red lights in Oxford,” she said.

“And I especially want to wish all of Oxford a very happy April Fool’s Day,” Tanehill said.