Parts of Ohio 41 will be closed for about 80 days now that construction has begun on a first-of-its-kind roundabout at a dangerous Pike Twp. intersection.
Crews last week have been building temporary pavement on Ohio 235 to shift traffic lanes to the west so that there is enough room to build the eastern two thirds of the roundabout, said Mandi Dillon, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The roundabout will be the first in Clark County — and likely the first in the state — where the speed limit is 55 mph on all four sides. The $1.1 million project will be paid for with federal money and is expected to be completed in September.
During construction, traffic will be detoured from U.S. 68 south to U.S. 40, west to Ohio 571, west to Ohio 201, and then north to Ohio 41, according to ODOT officials.
Officials decided last year to construct the roundabout four months after residents who live near the intersection told transportation authorities at a public meeting that they wanted improvements immediately.
Roundabouts send motorists in a circular pattern and are widely used in Europe. They have become more popular in the United States in recent years.
The circular intersection will force motorists to slow down to about 30 mph to navigate the structure.
Opponents of the project say it’s too costly and could cause more traffic problems at the intersection, where at least two fatalities and nine serious injury crashes occurred between 2009 and 2011.
“I would think there would be better intersections with a higher risk factor with less burden to the community where that money could go rather than impeding (thousands) of cars per day,” said Chad Cadwell, who lives two miles north of the intersection, has said. “I’m of the opinion it would be better elsewhere and at a cheaper cost.”
Supporters say it’s worth the expense to save lives.
“In the long run it will improve safety and you will be able to get thought it without having to wait (at a traffic light),” said Carol Trissel, who lives near the intersection.
Pike Twp. Zoning and Road Superintendent Alex Turner said the roundabout will have an impact on accidents in the intersection.
“I believe it will make the road safer. I’m not convinced it will lower the amount of crashes, but it will lower the number of fatalities … We cannot put a value on someone’s life,” Turner said.
The city of Dublin may have been the first municipality in Ohio to build a roundabout 10 years ago, Dublin City Engineer Paul Hammersmith said.
The suburban city near Columbus is now building its 17th traffic circle, Hammersmith said.
The structures have increased safety, reduced accidents and the severity of collisions at intersections, he said.
Engineers are attempting to regulate driver behavior with physical devices, he said, because motorists aren’t paying attention to traffic signals.
“They’re setting their radios, eating their lunch while driving and now they’re texting … or using a navigation system. Anytime they’re looking at that screen, they’re not paying attention to the road,” Hammersmith said.
It may take residents time to get used to driving around a traffic circle, he said.
“There’s going to be a period of acclimation,” Hammersmith said.
It’s possible an increase in fender benders could occur, Turner said, as motorists learn how the roundabout functions.
During construction, Turner said he’s concerned trucks who are forced to take detours will take short cuts and damage Pike Twp. rural roads.