After a six-month study, engineers presented potential “countermeasures” for three accident-prone roundabouts in the city during an open house Oct. 3 at the Phyllis A. Ernst Senior Center.
The study included the roundabouts on Main Street at Cemetery and Scioto Darby roads and at Britton Parkway and Davidson Road, but it shed little light on what solutions Hilliard leaders ultimately will choose.
No decision has been made concerning any changes to any of the roundabouts, said Letty Schamp, Hilliard’s deputy city engineer. A final report of recommendations is expected in November and implementation of any recommendations, contingent upon funding, is yet to be determined, she said.
Steve Thieken, director of transportation-system design and planning at Burgess & Niple, explained the countermeasures under consideration. Burgess & Niple, the same firm that designed the roundabouts, was hired to conduct the study – a decision that caused debate among Hilliard City Council members throughout the hiring process.
The countermeasures include improved pavement markings, raised crosswalks, signs with LED lights and overhead signs to indicate traffic patterns for each lane.
Schamp described raised crosswalks as elevated paths for pedestrians that are outside the traffic circles and are higher than the pavement on either side of it.
The study also included suggestions for an educational component, including a large-scale model of a roundabout on which people can walk the lanes of a roundabout and learn how to properly enter, travel and exit the traffic circles.
Modifications not under consideration are bridges or tunnels, Schamp said, because of the land required to build them and the difficulty of finding a single point for all pedestrian to use, as well as preventing pedestrians from crossing at grade level.
“Bridges and tunnels work really well when there is only one path (but) when there are (multiple) places where people want to cross, finding one path to (channel all pedestrians) is a challenge,” Schamp said.
During a question-and-answer session that followed the one-hour presentation, some residents criticized the decision to hire Burgess & Niple and offered opinions about the effectiveness and safety of roundabouts.
Burgess & Niple is the same company that more than a decade ago designed, planned and constructed renovations to the area locally known as “the Triangle,” according to Schamp. The firm was hired for $120,000 to conduct the study and the contract included $40,000 more for general-engineering services that could have been associated with the study and that required staff approval, she said.
Despite residents’ criticism, Schamp said, the study was “absolutely worthwhile,” and it provided such data as the age, gender and residency of drivers who were cited for at-fault crashes and the time and day of each accident.
A Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission report released in July 2016 showed that the roundabout at Main Street and Cemetery Road had the most accidents in Hilliard from 2013 to 2015 (233).
It was followed by Main Street and Scioto Darby Road (141) and Davidson Road and Britton Parkway (72).
Roundabouts have been gaining popularity in western and northwestern Franklin County in recent years.
Hilliard has 12 roundabouts, according to city officials.
In neighboring Dublin, where the city’s 23rd roundabout will open this month at Avery and Brand roads, city officials said roundabouts have not presented any notable problems.
“Our drivers are generally used to (roundabouts),” said Lindsay Weisenauer, a Dublin spokeswoman. “There was a learning curve when the roundabout at (state Route) 161 and Riverside opened (parts of which has three lanes), but drivers don’t seem to have any problems with one and two-lane roundabouts.”
However, Weisenauer acknowledged that Dublin does not have any two roundabouts as close together at those on Main Street at Cemetery and Scioto Darby roads in Hilliard. Those roundabouts are 350 feet apart, according to Hilliard officials.
“Dublin doesn’t have anything quite like that,” she said.
Dublin residents often ask the city to construct roundabouts wherever possible, Weisenauer said.
“Residents asked for the roundabout at Avery and Brand (roads),” she said.
As a four-way-stop intersection, it caused significant congestion at peak hours, she said.