Fayette County’s first roundabout is expected to be in place by 2025 as a funding application was approved to move forward with the project, according to Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials.
The roundabout will be constructed at the intersection of US Route 22 and Jamison Road — an intersection that has seen 20 accidents since 2018, including two that were fatal. The Record-Herald recently met with members of ODOT, members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth to discuss the next steps in this process.
Brooke Ebersole, public information officer for District 6 at ODOT, shared some information about the roundabout and the short-term plan until the roundabout is officially implemented.
“We’ve now had a funding application approved to move forward with a roundabout at the intersection of US-22 and Jamison Road. However, the funding piece is really just the first baby step as these things take time. We’re now in the process of designing the roundabout and moving it to construction as quickly as we possibly can, but it’s not going to happen overnight. We are eyeing 2025 for the implementation of a roundabout at this intersection. However, people still have to drive this intersection every day.”
She continued, “It’s not magically going to get more safe before we put that roundabout in, so we’ve got a couple of things working in the short term. The first one of those, I will call them stop bar rumble strips. You’ve likely encountered rumble strips on the interstates on the right or left side…maybe you weren’t paying as much attention as you should have, you were getting drowsy and drifted off, those shallow grooves get your tire and wake you up and get you back in the lane. That’s what they are designed to do. They’re designed to grab your attention and let you know that something’s coming. Particularly at this intersection where we’re seeing a high trend of people negating that stop sign, those are going to be key. We actually did this at an intersection in Marion County that is very similar in nature, at the intersection of 309 and Marion-Williamsport, and we saw a drastic reduction in crashes. So, we have every reason to believe that these are safe and they work, especially when drivers are missing the stop sign for whatever reason. It’s an extra added feature to grab your attention before you proceed out into the intersection.”
According to Ebersole, the rumble strips are not a long-term solution due to the maintenance required to maintain them. She explained why a roundabout is the best and safest solution.
“When you’re talking about an intersection that’s a traditional two-way stop, the first knee-jerk reaction usually for drivers is that we need a stoplight. We don’t have any science or data to believe that a stoplight would reduce the number of crashes that we’re seeing. All a stoplight usually does is change the type of crash that we’re seeing. If we’re seeing high-speed T-bone crashes at 65 miles per hour and you put a stoplight in, you may reduce the T-bone number but now you’re seeing a high number of rear-end crashes at 65 miles per hour. At the end of the day, the likelihood of somebody not walking away from that crash is high. Traffic signals are really designed more to be a traffic control device, not a safety feature.”
She finished, “When we’re talking about roundabouts, that really is the best feature for safety for a couple of reasons. At a two-way stop intersection, we’re talking about more than 30 conflict points of where your car could be hit at any given point. We introduce a roundabout where everybody is moving in the same direction, and we’ve now reduced that number of conflict points to eight. You might have a busted-up fender or a broken taillight here or there, but generally everybody walks away with their life from that crash. Roundabouts by very nature are designed to get you to slow down, they’re designed to look narrow, they’re designed to grab your attention. Now, it’s important to remember that roundabouts are not one size fits all. We’re not going to take a teeny tiny Hilliard roundabout and plop it into this intersection. We are aware that this is a heavy traveled commercial route, and a heavy traveled farm machinery route. We are engineering a roundabout that is wide enough for both a semi and a combine to fit through.”
According to Ebersole, the roundabout will be between 18 and 20 feet wide and will also include a mountable curb or “apron” that is designed for larger vehicles.
Another short-term solution that is being examined is to re-stripe the intersection. Ebersole shared how this would work.
“The intersection is two lanes in each direction, and as you are going down US-22 towards Washington Court House, it narrows to one lane in each direction. We have reason to believe that by streamlining traffic and bringing it down to two lanes, one in each direction, that reduces the amount of traffic you’re trying to navigate to get across. It’s less lanes that you have got to keep eyes on as you’re turning right or left on to US-22.”
Sheriff Stanforth shared some insight on the intersection and the findings behind some of the 20 accidents since 2018.
“Historically, the intersection has always been a problem since the development of Route 35. When they made Route 35 a four-lane highway, then US-22 became an offshoot of that. We were in discussions many years ago about improving that intersection and the improved intersection is what we have today, but there’s always consequences with any type of modification. We tried to adjust for the stop sign by putting a stop sign on each side. The second one was so that if a semi was pulled up to the intersection waiting to turn eastbound onto US-22 and was blocking the stop sign, they had another stop sign so that oncoming traffic would see that this was an intersection. We would later come back and put solar generated lights on the stop signs, which were blinking lights, just to get people’s attention.”
He finished, “The issue caused by improving the intersection was that it widened that intersection, so they created two westbound lanes and two eastbound lanes, and then the insert of turn lanes onto Jamison Road. The widening of that intersection created a different problem that we’re seeing today, which is vehicles are at a stop and now they’ve got to transition all the way across the intersection. The distance is equivalent to six lanes that they’ve got to travel to get through that intersection and they’re misjudging the cars coming out of town or coming into town. They’re misjudging that distance because they’re traveling 55 miles an hour, which is the true speed limit that that should be set there. They’re misjudging how long it takes the car to travel a distance at 55 miles an hour when they’re at a complete stop.”
Stanforth said that most of the crashes are from the stop sign going northbound on Jamison Road.
“We believe most are stopping, or at least they’re claiming they’re stopping. We know that some have completely ran the intersection and we know that they’ve been able to prove that they didn’t stop, but the majority of them are stopping. They’re not yielding or coming to a complete stop, though, and they think they can beat the car and they pull up to the intersection. By the time they cross over the eastbound lane and are crossing over to the westbound lane, the westbound traffic is on top of them.”
Lt. Jeff Madden of the State Highway Patrol shared some input on the accidents at this intersection.
“Something that the sheriffs and I are going to do is have a strong law enforcement presence in that area. Individuals are definitely going to see more of the sheriff’s office and more of the Highway Patrol being proactive in this area. We want to show a presence there and show that we are doing something about it, and we have been and will continue to do so. It’s a collaborative effort between us, the sheriff’s office, and ODOT.”
Ebersole said that the rumble strips could be seen at that intersection in the coming days. She spoke about the discussions to adjust the speed limit in the area.
“There’s been a little bit of discussion about that. It’s certainly something we’re examining. The thing to remember about lowering the speed limit is that we can arbitrarily throw a speed limit out, but at the end of the day, people are going to drive at the speed that they’re comfortable driving. If they’re already going faster than what’s posted out there at 55, there’s no reason to think that posting it at 45 or 35 is going to slow them down. They’re already going too fast and they’re only going to continue to go too fast.”
Stanforth added his thoughts on the speed limit at the intersection.
“Fifty-five is a good speed limit there, it’s a safe speed limit. What we’re seeing is people coming through and they know that in a couple-hundred yards it is going to narrow down to two lanes as they continue westbound towards Sabina, and they want to beat the car ahead of them or beside them. They want to try to jockey themselves, so they’re increasing their speed. That’s going to happen whether you go to 45, 35, or 70, someone’s always going to want to be the first car. They don’t want to follow, that’s the aggressive drivers we have today. I think the enforcement of 55 is a safe speed for that intersection. Engineers will tell us if that needs to be readjusted, but our guys are going to be enforcing the 55 speed limit through there.”
He was asked his thoughts or concerns on this being the first roundabout in Fayette County.
“There was a day when they had the first traffic sign in Fayette County. The whole science of traffic flow has changed in each generation. At one time, they came through and put up traffic lights at every intersection in Washington Court House. The city administration came back and realized they were maintaining an awful lot of traffic lights. They figured out that they could just put four-way stops at some of the secondary intersections in town to improve flow, and it did, but it took a long time for those in the community to adjust to the fact that everybody has to stop. Anytime we are asking for a change in the traffic flow, it is a learning curve. People go through Temple and North Street, and they expect to stop. It’s been done this way now for several years. They’ve trained their behavior and a roundabout will do the same thing.”
Matt Bruning, ODOT press secretary, shared some statistics about accidents at roundabouts compared to regular intersections.
“Crashes go down about 44 percent at roundabouts, and serious injury and fatal crashes go down over 80 percent. This is mainly because these are slower speeds that you’re driving, and the angles are different. It’s pretty hard to T-Bone somebody in a roundabout. I think there have been seven fatalities in roundabouts in the entire state over a five-year period, versus more than 900 at a signalized intersection. It’s a dramatic difference.”
Ebersole closed with a message to the community.
“Anytime the first roundabout accident happens in a community, there is always an uproar and there’s resistance. Community members insist it will raise the crash rate and it will be unsafe, but we are just asking the community to trust us on this one. The data backs up what we’re asking you to trust us on.”
Information about roundabouts can be found at https://www.transportation.ohio.gov/about-us/basics/roundabouts.