Roundabout explained: MDOT official holds open house in Ishpeming
By Adelle Whitefoot
ISHPEMING – A handful of community members attended an Ishpeming roundabout open house Tuesday to learn and ask questions concerning the project.
The Michigan Department of Transportation and the city of Ishpeming held the meeting to discuss the planned 2016 construction of a roundabout at U.S. 41 and Second Street in Ishpeming. During two presentations, representatives from MDOT’s Ishpeming Transportation Service Center spoke on the current plans for the roundabout and the benefits of having one. Questions from the audience were also taken.
Ishpeming City Attorney David Savu said he supported the idea of the roundabout but expressed concerns about pedestrians crossing U.S. 41 at the roundabout.
“We know that we have this Safe Routes to School at this intersection, and we know that there are many bikers, children as well as adults that cross that intersection,” Savu said. “So my suggestion is why don’t we build an overhead bridge to accommodate them?”
MDOT’s Ishpeming TSC Manager Andy Sikkema said the money for the roundabout can only be used for the roundabout and that if the city wanted to build such a structure they could. Sikkema did say, however, that they are far enough in the planning to say exactly what would happen with the pedestrian crossings.
“We are aware that it is a Safe Route to School and we want it to always be one,” said Aaron Johnson, traffic and safety engineer for MDOT.
Sikkema said the funds for the roundabout are coming from a statewide safety grant program that goes toward accident reduction and is covering 100 percent of the cost of the roundabout. The funds go toward mitigating crashes, he said.
“So if you have crashes and you can mitigate them, you qualify for the program,” Sikkema said. “That’s kind of how we got this funding.”
According to Sikkema, in a five-year period there have been 39 crashes with 20 injuries at U.S. 41 and Second Street and 29 crashes at U.S. 41 and Third Street with two fatalities.
“This information puts it on to what we call a high crash listing,” Sikkema said. “If you take this and compare it to other similar intersections throughout the state, this comes up to a high incident spot.”
Roundabouts are considered very safe when properly designed. They slow traffic to 20 to 15 mph, are low maintenance and can be easily modified if need be, Johnson said.
“The city is always talking about how to make a gateway to the city,” he said. “We envision this to make a great gateway to the downtown.”
The plans for the roundabout are in a conceptual stage right now and will progress over the next two years. The timeline currently is to have the design finished by the end of 2015. Once the design is finished it will be sent to Lansing and put out for bids. Construction is scheduled to start in 2016.
As more steps are taken to create a final design of the roundabout, public meetings will be held to keep community members informed, Sikkema said.
For general information about roundabouts visit michigan.gov/roundabout.