Washington Twp. roundabout project gets green light

A $1.25 million roundabout planned at the intersection of Mad River and West Alex Bell roads in Washington Twp. has been given final approval to be built.

During a public hearing last week preceding a unanimous Montgomery County Commission vote, Rex Dickey, a project manager with the county engineer’s office, described what is currently an accident-prone and congested four-way intersection.

The project was met with mostly support and little public opposition at the hearing.

While taking part in the Zoom hearing, Jason Brommeland held up his smart phone to reveal the intersection.

“This is my front door. You’re now looking at the intersection of Mad River Road and Alex Bell,” he said. “I’m in total support of the roundabout. The reason I say that, I’ve lived here for 20 years. In that time, I have seen some very horrible crashes. Most people are oblivious that there’s even an intersection here. And I’ve seen them slam into cars at 60 mph. It’s crazy.”

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Jesse Lightle, Washington Twp. administrator, said the township supported the project. Trustees there worked with the county on an early study of the intersection and partnered to hold public meetings that showed residents mostly supportive of a roundabout, she said.

Diane Weyrauch, a citizen who spoke over the phone, was concerned that a constant flow of traffic through the roundabout would not provide time and space for vehicles to enter Mad River or Alex Bell roads from nearby side streets compared to stop and go traffic.

Commission Clerk Emily Bradford read written comments from Dan Kien, a citizen who was concerned the roundabout did not adequately accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, and from John Risko, who was concerned that roundabouts confuse drivers.

Jim Gallagher, a Centerville resident who often passes through the intersection, said he found roundabouts very easy to navigate while driving many times in Europe, even where they “drive on the wrong side of the road.”

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County Commissioner Carolyn Rice said she fielded constituent concerns about whether the roundabout would be large enough to handle large trucks and emergency vehicles.

Dickey said school buses, emergency vehicles and even large semis will be able to maneuver through the roundabout. A stamped concrete inner circle called a truck apron will carry the rear wheels.

“It’s not purely decorative," he said. "This is there by design. It’s functional and it’s what allows large trucks to use the roundabout.”

Dickey said the current intersection consistently ranks among the top for crashes in the county’s roadway system.

A county analysis of crashes there from 2014 through 2016 revealed 40 crashes related to the intersection, 19 of them resulted in injuries. More than half — 24 — were rear-end crashes and another 12 were angle crashes.

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An average 9,050 vehicles a day enter the intersection on West Alex Bell Road while another 8,700 travel Mad River Road. Backups can extend 1000 feet and block intersections of other nearby roads, Dickey said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2022 and be completed in August of 2022.

The county has already acquired one property and will demolish a house to accommodate the roundabout. Two other private properties will be affected if the plan moves forward, according to the county.

Design and engineering of the project is slated to cost $256,000 and construction $990,000, according to the county. Federal Safety Funds will pay for 90% of the design and construction costs and 70% of the right-of-way costs, according to the county engineer’s office, which may also receive $200,000 in state funding if approved.

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