Coming Back Around?

New council reopens roundabout discussion during work session

Graphic courtesy of PennDOT

By Scott Shindledecker

WARREN, Pa. – Warren residents and some members of city council may not want a roundabout at the intersection of Pennsylvania Ave. and Market St., but local state Department of Transportation officials have no plans to halt the project.

Monday evening at the city council’s workshop, new mayor David Wortman and council members voiced their reservations with the nearly $4 million project which is scheduled to begin sometime this spring.

Five Warren residents also shared their displeasure with state officials.

“It’s utterly disgraceful for our city to waste this much money on something few people want,” one woman said.

“More than $1 million has already been spent on this project, no properties will be vacated and we only have to move the sidewalks and 29 parking spots will be lost, but none from CVS,” said PennDot project manager Chris Boyer-Krantz. “We’ve done thousands of hours of traffic surveys, we’ve done the public review.”

Another questioned how large tractor trailers or rigs hauling oversized loads would successfully negotiate the traffic controlled devices.

Many city officials and state highway departments across the country tout the use of roundabouts for slowing the speed of some motorists while keeping traffic moving.

Roundabouts result in lower vehicle speeds, generally 15-25 miles per hour, according to information on PennDOT’s web site.

The agency also reported that “Roundabouts are geometrically designed to reduce vehicle speeds to generally 25 mph or less, and all turns are right turns. This significantly reduces the severity of crashes over those at traditional intersections. Crashes that do occur are typically low-speed, sideswipe crashes rather than high-speed T-bone collisions that can occur at traditional intersections especially with left-turn movements.”

While state officials touted improved safety as one major reason for the project, Wortman said from the data that has been provided the number of accidents are “statistically insignificant.”

“You’re saying there are eight reportable accidents in five years at this intersection and with the traffic numbers driving through it, I don’t know how much safer this intersection can be,” Wortman said.

Boyer-Krantz said part of the analysis included not only the intersection, but the corridor which included a few hundred feet of roadway on either side of the intersection.

“Safety in the corridor should improve with slower speeds,” Boyer-Krantz said.

Brian McNulty, the state District Executive for the Northwest Region which includes Warren County, said studies have shown that pedestrian crashes have decreased 35% in roundabouts.

“People tend to only look at the traffic light and speed up to get through a light,” McNulty said. “When drivers are focused on what’s in front of them instead of a light, it’s easier to see pedestrians and the roundabout reduces speed, which affects the number of fatals.”

Another issue was how businesses in the area may be affected.

Council member Wendy McCain asked PennDot officials if eminent domain was being used on any properties in the area.

“All building will remain,” Boyer-Krantz said. “A few parking spaces will be lost and some green space in front of the (Nfg Federal) credit union.”

Officials said 29 parking spaces would be lost in the project.

“Some businesses believe they are being impacted because they are losing parking,” McCain said.

In terms of large truck traffic, PennDot officials also said they’ve made changes in the project to address the issue.

“We’ve made the aprons flat to accommodate large trucks,” Boyer-Krantz said.

Jim O’Mara, a Highway Technical Service Manager at ms consultants, inc., said the aprons would be built 150 feet wide to handle larger trucks.

Wortman said city council would accept public comment on the project at next week’s regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17.