IN Millcreek Summer 2017 - Page 20

Roundabout a Safety Component of PennDOT’s Millfair Road Project Looking for a conversation starter? Try just saying the word “roundabout.” Comments and opinions are almost sure to flow. And if you work for PennDOT, expect questions – lots of them. Why build them? How do you drive through them? How do trucks and buses get through? Aren’t they dangerous? Why not just put in a traffic signal? Why are you building one here? How much do they cost? All those questions reflect valid concerns and we, at PennDOT, welcome an opportunity to talk about roundabouts. The roundabout that has been getting the most questions and comments lately is the one being built at Millfair Road and Route 5 in Millcreek and Fairview townships. That single-lane roundabout is part of a much larger project – the $12.5 million Millfair Road Improvement Project. In PennDOT’s view, the most vital element of the Millfair Road project by far are the two 116-foot-long bridges that are to be built over the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks between Route 20 and Route 5. Those bridges will separate vehicles and pedestrians from trains at the rail crossings and make Millfair Road a safer and more efficient travel corridor. The bridges will significantly improve north-south access for motorists, emergency services, and commerce delivery. This is expected to make Millfair a busier road. However, despite the importance of the bridges, the part of the project that has generated the most public interest is the roundabout – hands down, no doubt. Why are we building roundabouts such as this one? In a word, Safety. Roundabouts are just another type of intersection, but their safety record is so strong that the Federal Highway Administration advised state DOTs to at least consider a roundabout anytime they build or reconstruct an intersection. PennDOT agreed, and adopted that guidance as policy. Roundabouts are not a good fit for every intersection. Sometimes engineering, topography, cost, or development issues make a traditional intersection a better choice. But where a roundabout is judged to be a good fit, we and other transportation agencies are opting for the enhanced safety of a roundabout. Safety statistics overwhelmingly support why so many roundabouts are being built across the state and around the country. Federal statistics show roundabouts have 90 percent fewer fatal crashes and 75 percent fewer serious injury crashes than a comparable signalized intersection. And crash data from the first roundabout that PennDOT built in northwestern Pennsylvania bears out those statistics. That first roundabout in the northwest region is located at the southern intersection of Route 19 and Route 97 in Waterford. The crash history of that intersection shows that an average of five people a year were injured in crashes in each of the five years 18 Millcreek before the roundabout was built. That’s 25 people injured in five years. No one has been injured at that Waterford intersection since the roundabout was opened to traffic in August 2014. At roundabouts, traffic moves more slowly and in the same direction (always counterclockwise). Essentially, crashes at roundabouts are fewer and are almost always “fender benders,” due to the slow speeds and the flared entry. There is rarely, if ever, the more violent T-bone or head-on crashes that can occur at more traditional intersections. A T-shaped intersection, such as at Millfair and Route 5, has nine conflict points – places where vehicles can collide as motorists either turn right, turn left or drive straight through the intersection. A T-shaped, three-leg roundabout would have just six conflict points. That is because in a roundabout, every vehicle makes a right turn to enter and exit the circle. Vehicles are all moving in the same direction and at lower speeds.