Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Intersection Issues

Jaime Baker

Members of the Athens Street Department are happy to be finishing a final plan for the Richland Ave/State Route 682 intersection. Director Andy Stone has proposed a plan for a "round-about road," which he says should be the answer to all the traffic problems at the intersection. The plan has two different options and will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation in the next two weeks. ODOT then gives the final answer on whether Athens will have a round-about road.

But a few members of the Athens City Council aren't quite as pleased as the Athens Street Department. While the Council understands that a solution is needed for the problems caused by traffic flow at the intersection, some think they have not been informed on many of the plans and proposed changes. Third Ward representative Nancy Bain says she is "mostly concerned about the lack of choice. There's really only two choices."

Nancy Bain on the lack of choices

According to the council, in Athens there are two "rush minutes," which are the busiest times at the intersection. These occur at 8:15 in the morning and 5:15 in the afternoon, the busiest time for commuters in and out of Athens. A round-about road, which is the preferred plan of the Street Department, would provide not only an easier route for drivers, but a safer path for pedestrians. Bain agrees that pedestrian safety is an important part of the negotiations. Bain's main concern is that the proposal is being hurried even though work doesn't start for at least another year.

Nancy Bain on deaths on Richland Bridge

Athens would not be the first place to build roundabout roads in the state of Ohio. Columbus, Cambridge and Copley are a few spots in the state that have adopted the style. Streets department director Andy Stone says with a round intersection, there would be fewer side impact crashes, which he says is a majority of the accidents at the intersection. Bain says she's OK with the actual design idea, and thinks it will benefit the flow of traffic, especially with the city's number of out-of-town visitors. Her biggest concern is the process.

Nancy Bain on roundabout roads

Roundabout Roads
Modern roundabout roads have three main characteristics. First, they give drivers in the circular road the right of way. Second, they are small and safer for high traffic periods. Lastly, they have a raised island in the middle that slows down or constrains speed just before entering the roundabout.

Roundabouts became a fixture in America in the 1990s, although they were first designed in England in 1963. As of January 2006, there are more than 1000 roundabouts across the country. Roundabouts are considered difficult to design, which is why they haven't caught on as quickly as people had expected.

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