State says more roundabouts on the way to control traffic

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
The First roundabout in Xenia

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

As Xenia residents are getting used to the city’s first roundabout, officials say Ohio drivers can expect to encounter more of them in the next decade.

Construction of the roundabout at the intersection of US 42 and East Church Street began in March and wrapped-up a few months later, opening to drivers on June 12. More than 13,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day, according to a City of Xenia release.

“Although drivers are still in the process of getting used to it, since it has reopened, traffic is moving smoothly and efficiently while also increasing the safety of drivers, pedestrians and residents,” said City of Xenia Engineer Chris Berger.

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Safety is the biggest reason the Ohio Department of Transportation is encouraging the adoption of roundabouts in place of traditional intersections, said Tom Arnold, ODOT District eight planning engineer. District eight includes Greene, Warren Preble, Butler, Hamilton, Clermont and Clinton counties.

The department recently hired a contractor to begin the initial planning for a new roundabout at the intersection at State Route 68 and State Route 235 between Xenia and Yellow Springs.

The project is estimated to cost $2 million and construction is slated to begin in spring of 2023 and completed by fall of that year, according to Arnold. Funds will come from the state’s Highway Safety Improvement Program.

The department will begin holding public meetings in early 2021 to invite comments and questions before design is scheduled to begin in summer of that year.

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“There’s lots of different treatments out there that we try to use to reduce crashes,” Arnold said. “But there’s only a handful of them that have demonstrated and (are) proven to reduce crashes, and roundabouts are one of those measures in that elite category.”

There are more than 200 roundabouts in Ohio and Arnold said that number will grow over the next decade.

An extensive safety study was completed by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration in 2017 that reported roundabouts reduced severe crashes by 82% compared to two-way, stop-controlled intersections. When compared to an intersection using stop-light signals, roundabouts reduced crashes by 78%.

“It is different,” Arnold said. “It’s not what you’re used to as a driver and if there’s not one in your area, you’re having to develop new habits. … You come to a roundabout and it’s all new to you and that can be frustrating.”

Arnold’s experience of drivers navigating their community’s first-ever roundabout, like those in Xenia, usually ends with happy residents, regardless of initial concerns.

Despite any initial concerns or learning curves, Arnold said drivers navigating their community’s first-ever roundabout, like those in Xenia, typically end up having a good experience. The department has not received any complaints from Xenia residents regarding its first roundabout.

“It (roundabouts) doesn’t fit everywhere, but it’s definitely a tool we’re using to improve safety,” Arnold said.