Lake County quickly coming around to roundabouts
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org September 24, 2013 10:29PM
Butler Fairman and Seufert, Inc., a civil engineering firm, provided this rendering of a proposed roundabout on 93rd Avenue in Crown Point. Roundabout intesections are also planned for Hobart and Schererville | Provided
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:29AM
Roundabouts are planned for three Lake County communities, and though the unusual intersection design is only now making inroads in the area, it could become more common as planners look for ways to reduce congestion and accidents.
Valparaiso installed one of the first in the region in 2008 on Indiana 130 near Valparaiso University as a joint project with Indiana Department of Transportation and the city.
Jake Dammarell, project manager at Butler Fairman and Seufert, a civil engineering firm, expects roundabouts to become more prevalent for intersections in the future. The Merrillville firm helped plan and design the three new intersections.
“A roundabout has been proven to effectively move traffic in a safe, more efficient manner than a signalized stop or a four-way intersection,” Dammarell said.
According to the Highway Safety Manual released by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, converting an intersection from a signal to a roundabout can reduce intersection crashes by 48 percent, and severe crashes that cause injury or fatality by 78 percent.
That hasn’t kept them from being controversial; it takes almost no time online to discover a vast network of roundabout-haters.
The design of a roundabout causes vehicles to slow down when approaching, Schereville town manager Bob Volkmann said.
“We’re all accustomed to a stop sign, but these traffic circles have the island built in the middle so you can’t see what’s on the other side,” Volkmann said, “so your natural reflex is to slow down.”
Roundabouts also require less monthly maintenance, according to Dammarell, and can help prevent cars from idling, reducing car emissions.
Crown Point city engineer Tris Miles said roundabouts have their drawbacks, including high upfront costs, such as for the additional land they require.
“Every time something new comes out, people get excited about it,” Miles said. “A lot of people get the idea that it’s the ultimate solution, but that’s not really true.”
Roundabouts with more than one lane can cause people to be stuck inside the intersection, he said, and intersections with heavy traffic are probably better with signal lights. He also doesn’t see roundabouts popping up in highly developed areas.
“As a retrofit option, it’s a little more questionable,” Miles said.
Schereville, Crown Point and Hobart plan to install new intersections within the next three years, each addressing different issues and approaches for their community.
A few private developments within Lake County have constructed roundabout intersections, but the three newest will be the first public roundabouts in Lake County.
Schereville’s project on Cline Avenue will combine Seberger Drive, Rohrman Road, and West 77th Avenue, and include the Pennsy Greenway bicycle trail.
“A traffic light wouldn’t accommodate anyone out there,” Volkmann said. “The traffic circle plan would eliminate a lot of conflicts.”
The project is estimated to cost $1.4 million, with contracts finalized in early 2014 and construction completed by early fall 2014.
In Crown Point, the 90-degree turn from 93rd Avenue to Chase Street will be replaced with a roundabout, as well as a staging and parking area for the Erie Lackawanna Trail. Miles said the design will help relieve a stormwater drainage problem. The project is estimated to cost $1.4 million.
Contracts are expected to be finalized around November 2014, with road closures expected around spring of 2015, with completion scheduled for the end of summer 2015.
Hobart’s planned intersection is part of the 61st Avenue Phase 3 project design to widen the street between Indiana 51 and Arizona Street. It would create a roundabout at 61st and Wisconsin Street. According to Dammarell, the entire project is estimated at $10 million and is expected to start some time in spring 2015.
“You are going to see roundabouts more often now,” Dammarell said, “but you have to look at the corridor as a whole, and make sure that increasing the flow of traffic at one place doesn’t cause problems at another. It depends on the location.”