Roundabout Rodeo to give drivers practice run

Roundabout Rodeo to give drivers practice run

The Ohio Department of Transportation and the Buckeye Hills Regional Council transportation planning division are inviting motorists to try out the experience of driving through a roundabout.

Roundabouts are common in Europe but relatively new in the U.S. The design feeds intersection traffic into a circle, which keeps it moving, rather than using a stop-start process like that of four-way stops and traffic signals.

The “roundabout rodeo” will be held at the skate park on State Route 669 in Malta from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, with painted markings intended to replicate the paths of a newly built set of roundabouts that are nearly ready to open at either end of the “new bridge” across the Muskingum River connecting McConnelsville and Malta. The rodeo is being held to allow drivers to get the feel of the new experience.

Drivers entering a roundabout slow and merge into traffic going around a tight circle, then exit the roundabout in the direction they wish to continue traveling. In addition to diminishing traffic congestion caused by stop-and-start traffic that occurs with traffic signals or four-way stops, roundabouts are thought to be safer because they prevent high-speed collisions in intersections. According to ODOT data, roundabouts have the capability to reduce intersection collisions by 40 to 60 percent and to nearly eliminate serious injury crashes, such as head-on and T-bone collisions, and those involving high speeds — roundabout traffic slows to about 20 mph before entering the circle.

“Using paint, road signs and cones, we’re trying to make it as realistic as possible so that drivers have a chance to practice before the real roundabouts open in Malta and McConnelsville by the end of the year,” ODOT District 10 public information officer Ashley Rittenhouse said Monday. “… since these are Morgan County’s first roundabouts, not all residents have driven through one before. We hope they’ll take this opportunity to familiarize themselves with them.”

The roundabout on the Malta side of the bridge is scheduled for completion by the end of October, she said. Starting Tuesday, traffic routing will change on the McConnelsville said, with drivers going north on State Route 60 across the bridge making a left turn instead of going around the roundabout. At the end of the phase that starts Tuesday, the traffic signals will be removed and traffic flow through the roundabout restored.

The final phase will involve installation of concrete barriers on the approach roads, and Rittenhouse said that work should be finished in December.

Michael Kelly can be contacted at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.