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Published: 5/25/2010

Sylvania roundabout planning moves ahead

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After hearing a presentation from the Lucas County engineer's office about plans to build a modern roundabout at King and Brint roads four years from now, Sylvania City Council approved an agreement last week with the county that will allow project planning to move forward.

Not only do roundabouts cost less to build than the most common alternative - adding left-turn lanes and installing traffic signals - for upgrading intersections no longer suited to four-way stop signs, studies show they significantly reduce crashes, especially those causing death or injury, Jeff Lohse, the senior deputy county engineer, told council before its unanimous vote.

The biggest drawback to roundabouts, Mr. Lohse said, is that they are unfamiliar to many motorists, who are skeptical about their appropriateness.

But several neighbors who addressed council after Mr. Lohse's presentation suggested they'd be happier if a Brint-King roundabout were built right away, instead of after several years of studies and engineering.

"I have three words for you: Get it built," said Bob Sommer, who lives nearby on Caracole Court and said the county's first roundabout, built last year at King and Nebraska Avenue, was impressive.

"I was amazed at how the traffic would flow at something so new," he said. "Economically, they make sense, and aesthetically, they're very pleasing."

"The county's presentation and public support drove the bus on this. The roundabout will improve traffic flow," council President Keith Haddad, who was one of several skeptics who requested the county presentation before voting on the city-county agreement, said afterward.

The agreement obliges Sylvania to contribute a small local match, most recently estimated at just under $80,000, to the roundabout project's overall estimated cost of $1.1 million, which includes design and environmental planning as well as construction. Most of the money is expected to come from a federal grant, for which Lucas County could not apply until the agreement was approved.

"I can't believe we're going to wait until 2015 to get this thing built. By then, it's going to be very hectic at that intersection," said Ken Marciniak, who recently built a home nearby and said he and his wife, Lucas County Recorder Jeanine Perry, are "1,000 percent in favor of this project."

If built as planned, the Brint-King roundabout would be the first in Lucas County to be partially in a municipality, and the third overall. The second, at Brint and Mitchaw roads in Sylvania Township, is slated for construction this summer.

Mr. Lohse said building the Brint-Mitchaw roundabout will cost about $425,000, significantly less than the $600,000 to $700,000 cost to build turn lanes and put up stoplights. The forecast cost for Brint-

King is so much higher, he said, because it includes planning and design costs, and anticipates four years' worth of inflation.

Mr. Haddad said the most persuasive part of Mr. Lohse's presentation was that not only will a roundabout be cheaper than a signalized intersection with turn lanes, it will be safer. Mr. Lohse cited an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis that found roundabouts reduced all crashes at the intersections involved by 39 percent, injury crashes by 76 percent, and fatal crashes by 89 percent.

The most severe crashes are reduced so dramatically, he said, because accidents at roundabouts most commonly involve sideswipes when entering vehicles fail to yield to traffic in the circle. Traditional intersections are prone to "angle accidents" in which motorists failing to honor stop signs or red lights collide at higher speed with crossing traffic, causing more violent impacts.

Roundabouts also reduce fuel waste from idling vehicles, Mr. Lohse said, and should reduce noise because most motorists only will have to slow down, not stop, and thus won't be accelerating as much as they would if they stopped.

Not everyone at the council "committee of the whole" meeting last week was smitten by the roundabout idea.

"I thought it was kind of imposing, and kind of ugly," Aline Wells of Marble Cliff Boulevard said regarding the roundabout at King and Nebraska. "It doesn't feel like a residential neighborhood.

And Carol Austin of Silica Drive predicted the lack of traffic controls more restrictive than yield signs will create a "free-for-all" and do nothing to control speeding on King or Brint.

Mr. Lohse said a public hearing will be held, almost certainly in Sylvania, during the project's design.



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