New roundabout proposal finds opposition

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By Alyssa Firth
Meridian Times staff writer

A third roundabout is being considered for Meridian Township at Burcham and Park Lake Road in Okemos. Though the board has yet to make a decision on it, residents have already shown concern at the Feb. 1 Township Board meeting.

Going South on Park Lake Road, residents are concerned about drivers not seeing cars lined up behind the hill.

One roundabout already exists at Marsh Road and Hamilton and another at Hulett and Bennett roads. Residents have complained that the roundabout at Marsh has caused more congestion and backups, but Police Chief David Hall has seen a difference in accidents at the intersection since the installation in 2009.

“It drastically improved the intersection. It was black and white,” Hall said.

The project will cost $600,000 and will be funded by a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant. Residents and board members expressed concern that this roundabout is being proposed simply to use up the grant.

“This is a ‘make work’ project because there is a grant available. An area like Park Lake and Grand River would be better,” Trustee Elizabeth LeGoff said.

Managing director for the Ingham County Road Commission Bill Conklin was at the meeting to explain the project and clear up discrepenies. Conklin explained that the areas in town had been studied and Burcham and Park Lake seemed the most worrisome.

“We want to avoid getting to a point of congestion. This is one (intersection) that was closely approaching warrants for signal, so we were advised to do it,” Conklin said.

Conklin explained that the grant was specific and could not be used in areas like Mt. Hope or Marsh Road. Residents still don’t believe the Burcham intersection has issues that warrant a change.

“I think that when you have an intersection in 2009 that had three accidents and in 2010 five accidents, I think we could pass on this,” resident W.M.J. Cleary said.

Residents wanted to know why a traffic light couldn’t be installed instead of the roundabout.

“In my mind, roundabouts are a step above signalized traffic lights. The concern you’d have there is more of a delay, ” Conklin said.

In a handout that Conklin provided at the meeting, studies showed that there is a 90 percent reduction in fatalities where there are roundabouts, compared to traffic signals.

“As a city official, sometimes you feel like it takes a fatality for something to happen. I’d hate to see that happen,” Treasurer Julie Brixie said.

Some residents at the meeting were in favor of the proposal. Resident and frequent bicyclist Nancy Kripiarz preferred the idea because of the pedestrian signals.

“It’s a very scary intersection with that hill and I think that it will slow it down and keep it safe as along it’s a single lane,” Kripiarz said.

Many of the residents who opposed the idea also stated that they were in support of roundabouts as long as they were in the right place. Cleary wants to make sure drivers know how to use them and would like for the township to somehow inform residents properly, which Conklin agreed he would be willing to do with HOM-TV.

“Right now at Marsh and Hamilton there are backups galore. Before we build another roundabout, they should investigate and inform the public about how to use a roundabout,” Cleary said.

The board is not at a point of making a decision, but there will be a public hearing at the Road Commission on Monday, Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

“I am in support of roundabouts where they are needed and when they are needed,” Cleary said.
View Roundabouts in Meridian Township in a larger map

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