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Published: Wednesday, 5/5/2010

Preparation under way for roundabout partly in Sylvania

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

With one modern roundabout in use in Springfield Township, and another to be built this summer in Sylvania Township, the Lucas County engineer's office is developing plans for the county's first to be built partially within a municipality.

But before the Sylvania City Council signs up for its city's part of a joint agreement to rebuild the intersection of Brint and King roads several years from now, it wants to hear the county engineer's rationale for such a design.

"I want a public hearing first, with a design to show the neighbors," Councilman Michael Brown said.

Council has scheduled a committee-of-the-whole meeting for May 17, starting at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers, to discuss the proposal.

Todd Milner, chairman of council's streets committee, said his skepticism about roundabouts is rooted in his dislike for examples that the city of Brighton, Mich., built several years ago along Lee Road near U.S. 23, in a commercial area.

"The one farther down King Road does seem to be decent," Mr. Milner said, referring to the roundabout Lucas County built at King and Nebraska Avenue last year.

Woodstream Farms subdivision resident Carol Lindhuber said, "The neighbors need the opportunity to speak. I have no problem getting through the intersection now." She spoke just before council decided to schedule the committee meeting.

Keith Earley, the county engineer, said he won't personally attend that meeting because he'll be returning from an out-of-town wedding, but his staff will be there to discuss the project.

"Most of the feedback has been good," regarding the King-Nebraska roundabout, he said. "Some have questioned the location, because it's not a high-traffic intersection, but we wanted to introduce this at a relatively low-volume location where it [traffic] was going to grow over the years."

The Brint-Mitchaw Road intersection is relatively rural too, but gets surges of traffic before and after events at nearby Pacesetter Park. Mr. Earley said it qualified for full federal funding as a "high-risk rural" location, and construction is scheduled for July and August.

Jeffrey Ballmer, Sylvania's service director, said the alternative to building a roundabout at King and Brint would be widening the intersection with turn lanes and installing a traffic signal.

"Modern roundabouts have proven to be more cost-effective," he told city council last month. "You have less traffic delays than you do with signals, because you don't have any waiting at red lights. But you do have to slow down to enter."

Nor do the dangerous "angle accidents" resulting when motorists make unsafe left turns at traditional intersections happen with roundabouts, and crashes involving drivers who fail to yield at the entry points tend to be less severe, too.

"I think we have had two minor fender-benders" since the King-Nebraska roundabout opened last year, Mr. Earley said.

Construction at King and Brint isn't planned for several years, but the agreement between the city and the county is needed now so a state grant, expected to pay 90 percent of the cost, can be sought, Mr. Ballmer said. Three-quarters of the King-Brint intersection is in Sylvania, with the rest in Sylvania Township. The city's cost share is expected to be just under $80,000, Mr. Ballmer said.



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