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Butler County roundabout boom will continue in 2020 and beyond

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Warren County will construct five new roundabout intersections over the next year. Roundabouts provide four-times fewer points of conflict compared to traditional intersections according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The latest roundabout project keeps Butler County on pace to include more than 30 by 2022, which the county engineer said underlines officials are “no doubt a believer in them.”

There are 25 modern roundabouts in Butler County, including 24 in the unincorporated areas of the county. Fairfield Twp. recently completed the county’s newest at Gilmore and Hamilton-Mason roads, a $1.7 million project that opens up dozens of acres of land for future development along that corridor.

But Fairfield Twp.’s traffic circle will not be the last, as there are eight more planned between 2020 and 2022, two of which will begin installation in 2020.

“It’s probably the No. 1 tool we look toward in our toolbox,” said Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens. “We don’t cast out the traditional intersection, and we’ll look at that. There are just a lot of factors that become involved.”

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Wilkens said he wasn’t sold on the idea when his traffic engineer first told him of the trend in other areas about a dozen years ago. They installed two in 2008, one in Fairfield Twp. and one in West Chester Twp.

“The reality is they worked well, and they’re fairly well accepted now,” Wilkens said.

The top factor is safety — as most of the roundabouts were installed at high-traffic and high-accident areas — and the second factor is cost. Costs for roundabouts have ranged from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 million or more, depending on how much land needed to be acquired.

Statistics back up Wilkens’ push for roundabouts. There has been between a 70 to 75 percent reduction in injury accidents at roundabout areas, Wilkens said, and so far there have been no fatalities. Conflict points have been reduced, and there’s no chance for a head-on collision when the roundabouts are used properly.

Fairfield Twp. Assistant Police Chief Doug Lanier said before the Hamilton-Mason/Liberty-Fairfield/Vinnedge roads roundabout was installed in 2008, there were many injury accidents at that intersection.

“When that roundabout went in, our crashes went down significantly,” he said. “The crashes we do have now are rear-end accidents, and at much lower speeds.”

Besides safety, efficiency is another major reason Wilkens will favor a roundabout at a high-traffic intersection.

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“There’s 30 percent additional capacity in roundabouts than what a conventional four-way traffic light intersection provides,” he said. “They’re operating all the time.”

One of the roundabouts scheduled to start in 2020 is at Ohio 73 and Jacksonburg Road, a high-accident area considered one of Butler County's most dangerous intersections. The installation, which is expected to cost about $3 million, is expected to be completed by 2021, according to the engineer's office.

Around 7,000 vehicles per day travel that intersection, a low traffic volume, but right-angle and T-bone crashes occur frequently, including an October accident that killed a Preble County mother and her child.

The most expensive roundabout project, the $23 million update of the Interstate-75/Ohio 129 interchange, is set to start in 2021.

Planned to start in 2021, Wilkens said a roundabout will be installed at Cox Road to help move traffic from to and from Hamilton and Mason and improve the transition on and off I-75.

“You’re dumping (Ohio) 129 off the end of that so there’s going to be a lot of traffic be there from Day 1,” Wilkens said.

Eventually, there will be a new eastbound roadway toward Mason, which Wilkens said won’t be in the initial project.

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Liberty Twp. Trustee Steve Schramm said he’s “excited as heck” about the project as it will open up the undeveloped land in the eastern part of the county as “that traffic flow through there is going to create a lot of demand.”

“That property has been sort of a secret gem of ours that only developers know about, and it’s going to create a lot more direct demand for business owners,” he said.

Schramm said the county has income streams to pay for the $23.6 million projects, including funds from its TIF district that generates $12 million annually, and grants that have been acquired in recent years. The rest, he said, will be paid out of local revenues.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any strain, directly, for that,” Schramm said.