Roundabout construction planned for East Lansing intersection

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by Tony Briscoe
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

Plans to construct a one-lane roundabout at the intersection of Burcham Drive and Park Lake Road were discussed at an East Lansing Transportation Commission meeting Monday, Jan. 24.

Three of the branches of the intersection belong to the Ingham County Road Commission, while the fourth belongs to East Lansing.

Road Commission Managing Director Bill Conklin has already drafted the construction plans for the roundabout. Conklin says the roundabout will reduce congestion in the intersection, which consists of flashing-yellow (north and southbound), flashing-red (east and westbound).

Bob Peterson, ICRC representative, explains how the roundabout will change the flow of traffic.

The construction, which is federally financed by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant, is required to decrease traffic jams and air pollution from vehicular overcrowding.

In addition to having a larger carbon footprint, Conklin says that the current traffic system poses safety problems. According to Conklin, there are approximately three to four accidents at the intersection annually. He also notes that fatal crashes could decrease 75 percent, while total accidents could decline by 30 percent if the new system is implemented.

If the roundabout installation takes place at Burcham and Park Lake Road, drivers would be legally obligated to yield to cars in the circle of traffic and pedestrians.

A hill north of the intersection that limits driver visibility and increases approaching speed was also an issue that the Road Commission says a roundabout could fix because the construction involves raising the street level about three feet.

View Burcham Drive-Park Lake Road intersection in a larger map

Despite those reasons, some citizens have expressed displeasure with the decision to build a roundabout at the Burcham Drive-Park Lake Road intersection instead of other locations where the grant, worth $600,000, could be better used.

“I live a little bit east of the area in question here and I understand it’s been proposed to reduce congestion and improve flow and to avoid accidents [but I’ve] traveled that thousands of times without seeing congestion,” said Cassius Street, a 40-year resident of East Lansing.

Although the issue will ultimately be determined by the Road Commission, itwould also like feedback from the Traffic Commission and local residents.  In spite of the disapproval of some East Lansing residents, members of the Traffic Commission have been overwhelmingly in favor roundabout construction according to public works director Todd Sneathen.

“Just based off the comments that were made it looks like (members of ELTC) were supportive of it,” said Sneathen.

Conklin said the construction was proposed to, and supported by the Transportation Commission in 2005, but plans were postponed because of funding.

Sneathen also said construction could begin this summer.

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