Newest roundabout opens in West Chester as dangerous intersection work begins

The Butler County engineer, the state and various townships have spent more than $16 million building 20 roundabouts throughout the county since 2006.

The latest circular intersection opened at Beckett Ridge Boulevard and Lesourdesville West Chester Road in West Chester Twp. on Aug. 13. The project cost $1.4 million and was one of the more expensive roundabouts on Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens’ long list. Wilkens manages roundabout installation in the county’s townships, while the cities do their own intersection projects.

Wilkens said installing roundabouts where appropriate can be less expensive that installing intersections with signals. The main reason Wilkens prefers roundabouts on two-lane roadways to traditional traffic controls is safety.

“Safety, safety, safety, it’s not to be the first one to build it or any of that,” Wilkens said. “What drives our organization is two things, safety by far the number one and two is economics.”

He said the cost of installing and maintaining traffic lights drives up the cost as does the need to add real estate in terms of turn lanes, which can necessitate purchasing right-of-way.

Wilkens said they have analyzed safety data and “we’re beating the national standards.”

“There’s a 90 percent reduction in fatalities, we haven’t had one,” he said. “And a 70 percent reduction in injury accidents.”

Safety is the main reason the Ohio Department of Transportation is installing a roundabout at the accident-prone intersection of Jacksonburg Road and Ohio 73 in Wayne Twp. ODOT spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller said the new roundabout cost is $2.9 million for construction and $783,000 to purchase 14 parcels, the most expensive roundabout countywide.

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Fuller said from 2012 through May 2015 there were 16 crashes at the intersection including three fatalities. Between 2014 and 2018 the intersection ranked 10th on the Highway Safety Improvement Program’s Rural Intersection list.

Construction began in July and will be completed next summer. Since the intersection joins a state route and county road there is heavy semi truck traffic so the roundabout lanes will be wider — which added to the cost — to handle those loads. Like Wilkens, she said a roundabout was the best way to calm traffic and reduce accidents.

She said roundabouts force people to slow down, decreasing the chance of T-bone and rear end accidents.

“Unfortunately people run stop signs and signals for whatever reason, they’re not familiar with the intersection or they’re not prepared for it,” Fuller said noting people will either speed up to get through a light or abruptly stop. “You don’t know what the person driving the car or truck in front of you is going to do, you never know, so the roundabout keeps people moving.”

The Journal-News took a brief poll on one of the West Chester/Liberty Facebook pages and nearly all of the 35 comments say the new Beckett Ridge roundabout is an improvement. The main complaint is there are people who don’t know to travel them.

“I love them but I wish people knew how to drive on them a.k.a. yield doesn’t mean stop, also don’t stop in the middle of the roundabout,” Megan Kelley wrote.

Wilkens said he doesn’t believe it should be confusing for drivers, “it’s intuitive the only thing you’ve got to do is look to your left and you’ve just got to stay focused in one direction, see the gap and go.”

The cheapest roundabout was built in 2010 for $345,050 at Jacksonburg and Morganthaler roads in St. Clair Twp. Wilkens said many things contribute to the cost of roundabout and the decision whether or not to build one. For instance he would not construct one at the congested intersection of Union Centre Boulevard and Muhlhauser Road.

Even if it made sense he said he is still not comfortable with multi-lane roundabouts.

“The records show that multi-lane roundabouts are not as safe as single lanes,” he said. “You interject some confusion in trying to move through the lanes in a two lane roundabout and we recognize that.”

There are nine future roundabouts planned in the county and five will be constructed next year.

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