PIQUA — With plans for a roundabout for the intersection of Looney and Garbry roads intended to address future growth, an open house held Thursday evening to address concerns about it drew both those in favor of roundabouts and others skeptical of the project.
City Manager Gary Huff provided background on the project, explaining that in 2007, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) identified that intersection as one of the 10 worst intersections for traffic crashes in the region.
“It was a very dire situation,” Huff said. At the time, the intersection was a two-way stop. In 2012, the city changed that intersection to a four-way stop, which addressed the issue of accidents.
“It is functioning fine,” Huff said, adding that the city is not out of the woods yet. Huff said a 140 percent increase in the traffic at that intersection would send it back into failure and potential gridlock.
“We have hundreds of acres of industrial site,” Huff said. “One business could send this intersection into failure.”
This is not Huff’s first experience with roundabouts, as he brought the first roundabout to Fishers, Ind. Huff said the community there was hesitant, but changed their minds after it was built.
“It was such a success that people wanted more of them,” Huff said.
Huff said that putting in a roundabout was being proactive rather than reactive to potential traffic increases that could occur at this intersection due to economic growth.
“To do nothing and to wait for a serious accident — in my opinion — it would be irresponsible,” Huff said. “Nothing more than trying to help and be safe.”
The city then showed a short video about roundabouts, explaining how they help with safety. The video discussed how roundabouts are designed to slow the speed of traffic as well as eliminating left turns in front of oncoming traffic along with direct right-angle crashes.
The city’s consultant from EMH&T, Mike Brehm, discussed the design of the roundabout as well as safety benefits. Brehm explained that the roundabout will be a small one with a truck apron, but it was also designed so that school buses will not need to use the truck apron. Farm equipment was also taken into consideration in the design of this project. There will also be street lighting.
“This project is also going to construct a shared-use path around the roundabout,” which will be for pedestrians and any bicyclists who do not want to cycle through the actual roundabout with motor vehicles, Brehm said.
In regard to safety, Brehm said that intersections that are four-way stops or have four-signal stops have 32 potential points of conflict for possible crashes, while roundabouts have eight potential points of conflict. Running through a yield sign at a roundabout would not have the same effect as running a stop sign or red light.
Brehm also said that the design for this roundabout is 50 percent complete and that they will be working on obtaining right-of-way acquisitions for the corners of this roundabout later this year. Construction will take place the summer of 2018.
To pay for the project, the city obtained a $1.1 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant from MVRPC in October 2013. The city also has to provide a local match of $600,000 for the project.
When it came to the cost, some of the audience members questioned if it was worth putting in a roundabout where the four-way stop had gotten the accidents under control. When a resident pointed out that it is not a bad intersection for crashes, Huff reiterated that this roundabout is an investment for the future and that increased economic growth will send that intersection into failure.
“We know it’s going to (happen). We need to be proactive,” Huff said. “If we wait down the road, that money is not going to be there.”
Scott Miller of Piqua said that while there are fewer crashes, “there are near-misses every single day.”
Others questioned whether the local match of the project was worth it.
“Six hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money to come out of the taxpayers’ pockets,” Josh Deal of Piqua said.
Another resident asked where the local portion funding the project was going to come from.
“Each year, we budget for construction projects,” Huff said. “This is money we normally budget each year. There’s no increase.”
Audience members also asked why this intersection was chosen for the location of a roundabout, to which Huff responded by saying it was the only intersection that qualified for the CMAQ grant.
Piqua City Commissioner Bill Vogt spoke in support of Huff, saying that while he personally did not like roundabouts, he supported Huff’s expertise and knowledge on the situation.
“I don’t like roundabouts, not because of the cost, but because they are confusing to me,” Vogt said. “I feel that we hired Gary Huff as city manager and he has so much experience in this type of thing that, even though I don’t like it, I’m going to defer to his judgment because he hasn’t led us down the wrong path yet.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336