A New Roundabout on Ohio 53 near Terra State Community College is Not Safe. But WHY?

The headline of this piece immediately begs a question:  How can a recently-built ‘modern roundabout’ be unsafe?  Their specific purpose is the exact opposite — to increase safety and also facilitate a good traffic flow, but both of these tasks require that roundabouts are well designed for the specific location.  So what’s going so badly wrong?

Roundabout adjacent to Terra State Community College, on Ohio 53, that has been the site of many crashes and one death.   (Photo via Fremont News-Messenger)

The roundabout in question is said to have been opened in November 2015.

According to Terra State Community College, in the past two years the roundabout has been the site of 19 crashes, one of which was fatal.

However, according to the Ohio DOT public information office, there have been 16 reported crashes in the last two years.

ODOT statistics apparently show that in 2015 — presumably just the last few weeks of the year — there was one crash, three in 2016, six in 2017 and again in 2018, ten in 2019, and two more in just the first two months of 2020.

That’s a total of 28 crashes, and of these 21 involved vehicles heading north on Ohio 53.  Among these incidents, law enforcement officers issued citations for ‘failure to control’, ‘following too close’, and /or ‘unsafe speed’.

In the interest of full disclosure, Eddie Wren, the writer of this piece says:

While I have 46 years’ multi-national experience in various fields of traffic safety, I am not by any means a highway engineer.  With that said, from my long-term, in-depth working knowledge of ‘modern roundabouts’ in Britain — where they were first invented, back in the 1960s — it is my belief that there is seriously inadequate deflection of direction for vehicles travelling either north or south on Route 53, thus allowing drivers to approach and negotiate the roundabout at speeds which results would suggest are significantly too high for safety.  This includes but is by no means limited to possible improper use of the paved ‘truck apron’, around the central island.

According to the Fremont News-Messenger, “planning for the $2.2 million project began in 2012 [and] ODOT officials worked with Terra to trim the project’s cost, initially estimated at $4.1 million.”

It would be very interesting indeed to know what exactly was trimmed from the project, almost halving the price in the process, and whether those cuts have been responsible for the alleged excessive speeds or any other aspects of the subsequent crashes and loss of life.


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