IN Millcreek Summer 2017 - Page 21

It’s true that the Millfair and Route 5 intersection does not have as serious of a crash history as the Waterford intersection had, but the efficiency of a grade-separated Millfair Road will attract more traffic and highway planners have an obligation to look toward the future. When planning projects, we can’t only look at conditions as they are today; we need to anticipate traffic growth well into the future, typically 20 years from now. Incidentally, not only are roundabouts safer, but statistics show they are typically 30 percent more efficient than similarly sized signalized intersections during peak hours. At roundabouts, entering traffic only yields to the circulating traffic until there is an adequate gap to enter the circle. This keeps traffic flowing. At signalized intersections, vehicles must sit and idle at red lights even during low-traffic off-peak hours, wasting time and fuel which delays the motorist and harms the environment. Single-lane roundabouts built, under construction or planned in northwest Pennsylvania are costing PennDOT roughly $2 million each. Sometimes that price tag has been a little more than a signalized intersection would have cost, sometimes a little less. However, once you account for the significant safety and operational benefits as well as the reduced long-term maintenance costs, the roundabout is almost always the more prudent choice. In the case of Millfair Road – the roundabout construction cost is approximately $180,000 less than a signalized intersection. We acquired land from four property owners for the Millfair Road roundabout. If we were to install a signalized intersection, we would have had to acquire land from 13 property owners to accommodate the additional turn lanes. Plus, those extra lanes would have meant an additional 37,000 square feet, which is almost an additional acre, of blacktopped roadway. Of course, property owners are paid fair market values for property required for this or any highway project. One thing to be aware of is that not all roundabouts are the same. Like any highway project, they are designed to adapt to the demands of the highway system and special requirements for the community. Examples are the two roundabouts under construction in Saegertown Borough in Crawford County – one at the northern intersection of Route 198 and Route 6/19, and one at the southern intersection of those same roads. The Saegertown community plans to use decorative plantings and signage at those roundabouts to serve as gateways into their community. Likewise, special considerations were in order at the Millfair Road roundabout. At Millfair Road, we plan to add features to aid visually impaired and physically impaired pedestrians. Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons are to be installed to alert drivers to yield to pedestrians. The beacons will be activated by cameras that detect the presence of a pedestrian or by pedestrian push buttons. Camera activation is also an aid to those who cannot physically press the button. The push buttons include a locator tone and also a spoken message that the beacon has been activated. We understand that roundabouts are something new to many drivers, pedestrians and cyclists even though they have been being built across the country since the early 1990s. Apprehension and questions are normal, but the experience of PennDOT and other transportation agencies show that roundabouts quickly become accepted as just another part of the highway system once they are in use a short time. PennDOT has created what we think is an excellent video to explain and acquaint customers with roundabouts. The video can be accessed by visiting PennDOT’s web page at www.penndot.gov and entering “roundabout” in the search bar, or by visiting the department’s YouTube channel. Jim Carroll is District Press Officer for PennDOT Engineering District 1, which serves Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties. Millcreek | Summer 2017 | icmags.com 19