FAIRBORN — Fairborn is replacing the skewed angle and aging infrastructure at the Col. Glenn Highway and Kauffman Avenue intersection with the city’s first roundabout.
“Number one: we want to improve the safety. To improve the safety, we need to re-align the intersection,” Fairborn City Engineer Don O’Connor said at a Jan. 18 public meeting aimed at providing project details. “Inefficiency was reason number two we wanted to make this improvement. I’m sure most of us have sat at the intersection at a red light and waited with no one there, but we can’t go … The third major problem was the failing signals, the aging infrastructure. The signals, similar to those at Garland Ave., are 49 years old. They have the third-most maintenance calls in the city.”
The Kauffman and Col. Glenn Highway intersection is the fifth most-dangerous in the city. It is behind the Col. Glenn Highway and North Fairfield Road intersection (most dangerous), Col. Glenn and University Blvd. intersection (second most dangerous), Dayton-Yellow Springs Road and Kauffman Ave. intersection (third most dangerous) and Maple Ave. and Xenia Drive intersection (fourth most dangerous).
However, according to O’Connor, a roundabout would not solve safety issues at those intersections.
O’Connor explained that a roundabout works best when the volume of traffic isn’t too heavy and is balanced on each side, which is why a roundabout would not be a solution to the Col. Glenn and North Fairfield or Col. Glenn and University Blvd. intersections.
He said the Ohio Department of Transportation had already made improvements to the Kauffman Ave. and Dayton-Yellow Springs intersection in 2015 that was aimed at reducing crashes. The city would not consider a roundabout at that location.
O’Connor added that roundabouts need space, possibly creating the need for right-of-way costs, or the city having to purchase property in order to have enough room to install and operate the roundabout. If the city were to consider installing a roundabout at Maple Avenue and Xenia Drive, officials would also have to consider right-of-way costs due to space limitations.
“The sharp angle [on the skewed intersection at Col. Glenn Highway and Kauffman Avenue] causes most of the problems,” O’Connor said. “There’s a lot of rear-end and angle crashes.”
City officials understand that citizens may resist installing a roundabout in Fairborn. O’Connor explained that approximately 5,000 roundabouts have been installed in the United States since 1990, allowing the opportunity for a number of traffic studies to take place.
O’Connor explained that before a roundabout is constructed within a community, approximately 24-44 percent of citizens are in favor of the project. After the roundabout is completed, however, 57-87 percent of motorists are in favor of the project.
According to O’Connor, crashes at the roundabout may slightly increase within the first six-months of the project being completed. Ultimately, however, roundabouts typically see a 75 percent reduction of injury crashes compared to traditional intersections. Overall, roundabouts reduce 37 percent of all crashes, 90 percent of fatal crashes and 40 percent of pedestrian crashes. Slower speeds and the flow of traffic virtually eliminate T-bone and head-on collisions. Pedestrians are also further away from traffic.
He added that roundabouts have a higher initial cost, but a lower life-cycle cost with less money spent on infrastructure repairs and electricity. O’Connor said he also understands that citizens may perceive the project to be “frivolous.” While a roundabout can improve aesthetics in an area, he said its main purpose is improving safety and efficiency. Current plans include having grass in the center of the roundabout circle.
The design, two-thirds of the way complete, is slated to be finished by the fall months. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2019 and is aimed to be completed by fall 2019. While the roundabout construction is taking place, the city currently plans to keep one lane open. However, Fairborn officials are also considering a full lane closure.
After construction is complete, lanes on Kauffman leading toward Col. Glenn will be reduced to one so that cars can file into the roundabout circle one-at-a-time, directed by yield signs and confined to 20 miles per hour.
It is estimated to cost a total of $1,190,000. The Ohio Department of Transportation has funded $336,694; Fairborn road funds are supporting $853,306 of the costs.