Engineers say building a $2.26 million roundabout at Rt. 113 and Baumhart Road, just west of South Amherst, is the best way to reduce crashes.
The rural Henrietta Township intersection raised red flags with 22 motor vehicle crashes from 2012 to 2014, according to Ohio Department of Transportation District II engineer Scott Ockunzzi.
Seventeen incidents resulted in injuries during the three-year window, though there were no deaths.
“We try not to do things as a reaction to a single fatal crash. We really want to look for a pattern of crashes before we do something like this,” said Ockunzzi.
He noted 12 rear-end and seven angled crashes, saying the latter are usually a sign something is wrong with an intersection. It turns out that running red lights is a problem at 113 and Baumhart.
That’s why a roundabout makes sense, Ockunzzi said. Made popular in 1960s England, modern designs for circular intersections are gradually being used more and more in the United States because they force drivers to slow down but usually don’t require making a full stop.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, trading in a signalized intersection for a roundabout leads on average to a 48 percent drop in all crashes. It can also cut deaths and injuries by as much as 78 percent, since T-bone crashes at traffic lights tend to be high-speed.
The city of Avon opened a new roundabout in October at Mill Road and Rt. 83 to combat congestion. Central LaGrange has had a similar layout for a long time, but it’s a traffic circle, not a roundabout — it’s wider and cars must stop before entering. And ODOT District III is proposing more roundabouts to be built in Medina and Wayne counties.
Roundabouts are designed for lower speeds. Ockunzzi said the goal is to slow drivers to 15 to 25 mph, which provides better gaps for vehicles to enter, “and if any crashes do occur, they’re much less severe than at a traditional angled intersection.”
Drivers will have to be cautious when yielding at entrances, but a circular intersection could actually end a lot of waits caused by red lights.
Planned for the 2022 construction season, the project has plenty of time for public comment and response.
The wait is mainly due to when funding will be made available.
ODOT has agreed to bear 100 percent of preliminary engineering, right-of-way, environmental study, and detailed design costs. Lorain County has agreed to cover construction and engineering with state and federal grants.
In the meantime, Ockunzzi said ODOT wants to hear from local residents about the roundabout idea, and meetings will be scheduled over the next few years to gather that feedback.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.