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Debate circles back to new roundabout

Engineer: Redesign could cost $400,000

By APRIL HELMS Reporter Published: May 3, 2017 12:00 AM
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TWINSBURG -- The roundabout debate -- their merits and faults, whether they are easier or more difficult to negotiate and whether they are safer or produce more accidents -- is now focused on the planned roundabout at Meadowood Boulevard and Route 91.

Like the roundabout completed last year at Glenwood Drive and Route 91, the planned circle at Meadowood Boulevard and Rt. 91 is part of the full $8 million Rt. 91 improvement project.

Based on resident opposition to traffic circles, Councilman Bill Furey (At-large) proposed April 25 to redesign the plans and construct a traditional intersection with signals at Meadowood Boulevard and Rt. 91. However, the motion was rescinded later in the meeting by a 6-1 vote, with Councilor Brian Steele (Ward 2) dissenting. Furey said he planned to reintroduce the measure at the May 9 Council meeting.

The deadline to change the engineering plans -- which Twinsburg Engineer Amy Mohr says could cost the city an extra $300,000 to $400,000 -- is in May, according to Furey.

According to City Engineer Amy Mohr, the cost for the planned roundabout is estimated at $4.13 million dollars, with the city's share at $690,00 and the federal share at about $3.44 million.

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The city is hoping to get an Ohio Public Works Commission grant for $470,000 to cover part of the city's share.

The city engineering department hopes to file its final plans, which currently includes the roundabout as the northern bookend to the project, to the Ohio Department of Transportation in June 2017, and construction of the roundabout would start sometime in the fall of 2019 and conclude in 2020.

"If the plans are changed, contracts will need to be renegotiated with design engineers and right of way consultants, and legislation passed awarding the contracts," Mohr said. "We would hope to have the right of way plans ready by the end of August 2017 to give to the right of way consultants.

Right of way acquisition usually takes a year to complete, Mohr said. The city would then file the plans and certify the right of way to ODOT by September 2018, at which time utility coordination and relocation orders would be given.

Mohr said a redesign would require additional land acquisition from approximately 12 parcels.

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Roundabout debate

Furey, who previously voted for the roundabout project at Glenwood Drive, said he began rethinking his position for the second circle after hearing resident feedback opposing another traffic circle.

"People have come out of the woodwork to tell me they hated the [Glenwood Drive] roundabout and how much they didn't want it there," Furey said.

Elizabeth Dowell, who spoke at the April 25 meeting, said she lives near the area and dislikes the thought of another roundabout.

"It's not conducive to have two roundabouts so close together," Dowell said. "I witnessed an awful accident on Glenwood [Drive] a couple weeks ago. I have friends who visit from Solon, and they call [Glenwood] 'suicide circle.' If it is proposed and goes through, there's no way I can exit without going through a roundabout."

However, Mayor Ted Yates said the roundabout has done its job in relieving traffic congestion, and that a vote for a four-lane road with signalization "is a vote for a more dangerous intersection."

"The roundabout is doing exactly what it's supposed to do," Yates said. "It's creating a better, safer way of moving traffic through there. The reason this all started is that the Solon quarter to Post Road was one of our largest accident areas and one of our biggest traffic areas. There were two things we were trying to fix. We fixed both of those with that roundabout."

Yates said that there was in increase in accidents during the contraction but once it was reopened, that "the rate of accidents is the same as any other area we have in Twinsburg."

Resident Paul Levine, who also spoke at the meeting, said his father, who is in his 80s and lives in New York City, had no trouble navigating the roundabout.

"He couldn't believe there was no reason to have to sit through a red light when there's no cars there," Levine said. "All my neighbors, they love the roundabout. There's no wait, there's no traffic. I said this three months ago, the whole idea of the roundabout was to get rid of traffic. End of conversation. There's no more traffic there now. I'm not a city engineer, I don't know if there's a need for the second roundabout but the first one is a success."

Steele said he was concerned about the increased number of accidents since the Glenwood Drive roundabout opened. The Twinsburg Police Department has reported 11 accidents in and around the Glenwood Drive/Rt. 91 roundabout between November 2016 (when it partially opened) and April 10 (the last recorded accident as of press time).

"We had 39 accidents from 2012 to April of this year," Steele said. "Fourteen of those accidents are the roundabout. I'm going to give you credit, a lot of those accidents occurred when it was still under construction. But that roundabout, with those 14 accidents, that's almost 36 percent of the accidents that occurred on 91 and Glenwood over a five-year period."

Steele, an opponent of the roundabout, says they have shown to be safer in regards to personal injury.

"Yes, you are getting less of a chance of maybe getting somebody hurt, but you are doing a lot more damage to the cars when they make contact," he said.

Cost concerns

The increased costs for a redesign was a bone of contention for several Councilors April 25.

"Our residents need to know this is going to be a $400,000 discussion," said Councilwoman Maureen Stauffer (Ward 4).

Councilman Sam Scaffide (Ward 1) agreed, and said Council needed to have further discussion on the issue.

"It makes me angry to think we can throw $400,000, $500,000 away," Scaffide said.

Yates said the city would have to repay ODOT "about a half a million dollars in engineering fees."

Mohr said studies have shown roundabouts to be safer and that there is a learning curve for drivers when it comes to traffic circles.

"The population ... is more familiar with traditional intersections and most people are resistant to change," Mohr said. "From the current roundabout, many users fail to understand 'yield' means yield ... to allow vehicles in the roundabout intersection to continue to an exit without being cut off. As more roundabouts are installed regionally and nationally, users will become more familiar with the operation."

However, traditional intersections are easier to plan because "the geometry through the intersection is less complicated as you do not have to build the center island and splitter islands," she added.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9423

Twitter: @twinsburgohio


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