Roundabouts contribute to safety, less crashes in Butler County

By Staff Report

Photo submitted by the BCEO.

Modern roundabouts have become more common across the United States, and they have continued to experience tremendous growth in Butler County.

Roundabouts are a safer, more efficient alternative to traditional intersections at certain locations. Traffic studies have indicated that the number and severity of accidents have been substantially reduced where roundabouts have been installed.

“We currently have the 18th roundabout in Butler County that we were involved with, and it was just constructed at Hamilton Mason Road and Gilmore Road,” said Traffic Engineer Matt Loeffler of the Butler County Engineer’s Office.

The roundabout at Hamilton Mason Road and Gilmore Road in Fairfield Township and the City of Hamilton was completed just over a month ago. It took three to four months to construct. This one took a little longer because Gilmore Road had to be realigned with Hamilton Enterprise Park. (The realignment of the road took extra time.) Typically, the county is able to install a roundabout in about three months.

Photo submitted by BCEO

The single-lane, traffic roundabouts first appeared on Butler County roads in 2008. Modern roundabouts were built at the Hamilton Mason Road/Liberty Fairfield Road/Vinnedge Road intersection as well as at the Lakota Drive West and Eagleridge Drive intersection. More roundabouts are being planned over the next three years in – 2020, 2021 and 2022, including Ohio 73 at Jacksonburg Road (to be constructed by ODOT) next year.

In 2020, a roundabout will be constructed at Lesourdsville West Chester and Beckett Ridge.

In 2021, five roundabouts will be installed at:

  • The Five Points intersection that borders Hamilton and Fairfield Twp., which includes Tylersville Road, Hamilton Mason Road, Tuley Road, Grand Blvd., and Hancock Ave.

  • Butler Warren Road at Barrett Road (The City of Mason is taking the lead on this one, but Barrett Road is a West Chester Twp. roadway. Butler Warren Road straddles the Butler County and Warren County lines.)

  • Trenton Road and Wayne Madison Road

  • Butler Warren Road and West Chester Road (As part of the project, West Chester Road will be realigned with Socialville Foster Road.)

  • Millikin Road and Lesourdsville West Chester Road

In 2022, Ohio 129 will be extended down to Cox Road – It will be Butler County’s first multi-lane roundabout. It is predicted by BCEO this will start out as a single lane and grow to a multi-lane roundabout.

Roundabouts, an alternative to typical at-grade intersections, offer improved safety, while keeping traffic flowing at slower speeds through the intersection.

“The roundabout is always one of the first tools in our toolbox when we’re looking at an intersection improvement. Roundabouts are a safer form of an intersection than a traffic signal, and more efficient than an all-way stop,” Loeffler said.

He said, usually, it comes down to a safety study, showing that there is a crash pattern or a crash history at an intersection, where a roundabout would be a good fit, and eliminate crashes. Roundabouts can also be used to replace an all-way stop to improve traffic efficiency, especially during a.m. and p.m. peak traffic hours.

According to the Butler County Engineer’s Office, roundabouts have resulted in:

  • 63 percent reduction in overall crashes

  • 80 percent fewer injury crashes

  • 100 percent reduction in serious and fatal crashes

This compares with a national average of 40, 75, and 90 percent, respectively. So Butler County’s roundabouts are doing better, or outperforming the national statistics.

“That’s why we continue to look for good uses of the roundabout to help reduce crashes and to make an intersection more efficient,” Loeffler said.

There are many reasons why BCEO Traffic Engineers identify a roundabout to be a good solution to a problematic intersection. While not necessarily the answer for every intersection, a roundabout may be determined to be the least costly and most effective solution at certain locations due to the roundabout’s smaller “footprint,” which requires less land and right-of-way acquisition. Turn lanes can require more land acquisition and ongoing operation of signals can drive up costs.

Moreover, there are roundabout’s inherent safety features. Stop signs and signals do not guarantee that motorists will stop. Roundabouts act as traffic calming devices that force drivers to slow down. Accidents that may occur are almost always less severe.

Because roundabouts improve the efficiency of traffic flow, they also reduce vehicle emissions and fuel consumption. During peak traffic hours roundabouts carry about 30 percent more vehicles than signalized intersections, resulting in less stopping, fewer delays, and better fuel efficiency.

The three intersection traffic control devices that are typically considered are moving from a two-way to an all-way stop, or from a two-way to a traffic signal installation, or to install a roundabout. Roundabouts also help to remove angle collisions, especially the serious, injury crashes caused by two cars (T-bone type crashes).

The two primary reasons roundabouts are installed are to reduce crashes as well as to move traffic more efficiently. Another reason could be to calm traffic, which is a secondary benefit.

Photo submitted by BCEO

On average, roundabouts cost around $700,000 to a million dollars or more to construct. The cost can vary based on the amount of work that needs to be done and the cost of materials. A number of them have received safety grants. Roundabouts will serve the traffic demand for many years. They are also considered to be low maintenance.

The acceptance of roundabouts in the United States has been one of the drivers of their growth. Roundabouts have been popular in places like Europe and Australia for a long time.

“In the United States, they really didn’t gain that acceptance until the early 2000s,” Loeffler said.

He said some tweaks in the roundabout design have helped in regard to the broader acceptance. With some of the early designs in the United States, the circular traffic had to yield to the incoming traffic, and that was not a good design. The modern roundabout has changed that where all the approaching vehicles must yield to the circular traffic. Other changes to the design have helped to slow down vehicles upon approaches. Those two changes have helped the United States gain confidence in roundabouts.

More and more residents, locally, are expressing they would like to have a roundabout installed near them. Others are still getting used to how to navigate in a roundabout. Cars in the roundabout have the right of way.

“We still have work to do to educate the public. It’s a continued effort to educate the rules of the road for the roundabout to help gain that acceptance because there are still people out there who stop while circulating in the roundabout to let someone in when the approaching vehicles are supposed to yield to the circulating traffic. And, there’s still some that won’t enter the roundabout until there’s a very large gap when they can probably enter the roundabout sooner, because the car in the roundabout is not directly in conflict with them,” Loeffler said.

He said the county has taken an aggressive approach to the modern roundabout, which is a credit to Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens. These not only keep motorists safe but move vehicles in an efficient manner. A city like Carmel, Indiana has well over 100 roundabouts.

How To Properly Navigate A Roundabout

The BCEO offers the following tips for navigating roundabouts safely and properly:

Approaching and Entering

  • When approaching a roundabout, slow down and be prepared to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
  • Pull up to the yield line, look to the left for approaching traffic within the roundabout. If there’s no traffic, proceed counterclockwise at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Remember, circulating traffic has the right-of-way. Entering traffic must yield the right-of-way to circulating traffic.
  • Enter the roundabout when there is an adequate gap in circulating traffic. Proceed to your right. Vehicles travel counterclockwise around a raised center island.

In the Roundabout

  • Once in the roundabout, drivers proceed counterclockwise to the appropriate exit, following the guidance provided by traffic signs and pavement markings. Once in the roundabout, you now have the right-of-way. You shouldn’t have to stop.
  • Stay off the slightly raised truck apron unless needed by a larger turning radius vehicle.

 Exiting

  • As you approach your exit, use your right turn signal if possible.
  • Watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk and be prepared to yield.
  • Slowly exit the roundabout.

For additional information, tips and roundabout resources, visit www.bceo.org/traffic