.

A Roundabout: Where Does Hurd Avenue Fit In?

Connecticut DOT officials presented a roundabout proposal for the intersection of routes 110-111 and potential solutions for its effect on Hurd Avenue.

A request for a traffic signal at the intersection of Shelton Road (Route 110) and Monroe Turnpike (Route 111) to solve congestion problems caused by vehicles waiting to turn left onto Route 111 sparked a Connecticut DOT study in April of 2011. Though the state agency determined a traffic signal was warranted, that still left the problem of serious crashes caused by speeding, according to William Britnell, principal engineer of highway design for DOT.

There have been 24 accidents at the intersection over a three year-period, three with injuries, according to Britnell. Nearly half of them (11) consisted of rear-end accidents on 110, he said.

Britnell said rear-end collisions would decrease on Route 110 with a traffic light, but rear-end accidents on Monroe Turnpike would go up with cars stopped at red lights. "The accidents would likely be more serious due to high speeds," he said.

The study included the projected traffic volume 20 years from now and Britnell said that would be four-to-five times more than the intersection could handle if it just had stop signs.

"A roundabout was considered because there are fewer accidents and less traffic congestion than with a traffic signal," Britnell explained.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Interested in Monroe's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Monroe Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

________________________________________________________________________________________

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study of 24 roundabouts in eight states shows a 39% decrease in total crashes, according to Britnell. And because a roundabout forces traffic to slow down, he said there was a 76% reduction in crashes with injuries and a 90% reduction in fatal accidents.

A roundabout in Monroe would also be fully funded by the federal government, Britnell said.

First Selectman Steve Vavrek and the town's state delegation believe a roundabout is the best solution for traffic problems at the intersection.

But the DOT's engineers still need a solution for Hurd Avenue — by the white Harmony Grange building at the corner, where traffic would not flow smoothly into a roundabout, which does not allow left turns.

An informational meeting was held for residents of the Hurd Avenue area inside the Council Chambers of Monroe Town Hall Tuesday night, in which Britnell made a presentation, options for Hurd Avenue were shared, questions were answered and ideas were sought.

Close to 50 residents attended the meeting, along with State Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112th), State Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-21st), Police Chief John Salvatore, Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein and Public Works Dir. Douglas Arndt. Several DOT contractors and engineers were also present.

"People drive way too fast," Vavrek told the audience. "This will slow people down." Then he smiled adding, "Maybe it will improve your property values."

Hovey encouraged neighbors to bring their concerns to their elected officials and to Schatzlein at town hall. "We can't always make everyone happy, but we can try to make as many people happy as we can with safety being our priority."

Hovey said slowing down traffic will help to preserve Monroe's Historic District and Town Green area.

Vavrek also encouraged residents to contact his office with questions and suggestions.

A stack of forms seeking input was kept at the door of the Council Chambers for people to fill out.

Britnell's Presentation

Britnell said roundabouts are significantly smaller than traffic circles and that those already in the roundabout would have the right-of-way, as opposed to those entering having the right-of-way in a traffic circle.

An island at the center of the roundabout would be landscaped and could have aesthetic features such as a statue or a flag.

Britnell said this is not meant simply to be decorative, rather it directs drivers to look in the direction they should be looking. He said a driver should look at traffic to the left while entering a roundabout, rather than at the cars across the way.

The center of the roundabout is surrounded by what's known as a truck apron. Raised about three inches high, Britnell said truck tires easily ride upon it, giving more room for rigs to maneuver, while other traffic slows down to avoid it.

Triangular "splitter islands" at cross walks surrounding a roundabout give pedestrians a midway point to stand while safely crossing the street, and slows and directs traffic into the circle, according to Britnell, who estimates that a traffic circle reduces speeds to 10 to 15 mph.

Though Britnell said it forces drivers to slow down, he added it significantly reduces pollution from idling engines at intersections by allowing a constant flow of traffic. A study in Carmel, Ind., where there are a lot of roundabouts showed 24,000 gallons of gas saved a year and a 42% reduction in carbon emissions, according to Britnell.

What About Monroe?

Britnell said a roundabout in Monroe would have one lane in each direction of Route 111. See a video demonstration with this story with estimates of traffic volumes 20 years from now. It is shown at higher speeds than vehicles would actually be driving.

A public presentation had been made on March 5,2012 and the decision to pursue a roundabout for Monroe was made on March 29, according to Britnell.

While this is the direction the town wants to go in, Hovey said there are currently no funds allocated for the project. Britnell said the project would cost about $2.5 million and should take one construction season — typically between April and November — to complete. With approvals and other issues that could come up, he said the earliest Monroe could have a roundabout would be 2016.

Right now, the DOT only has a conceptual plan for Monroe's intersection.

The location of Hurd Avenue would make traffic turning left onto 110 on the way to 111 disrupt the consistent right turns within the roundabout. Those living in that neighborhood would have to turn right onto 110, left onto Moose Hill Road and left onto Monroe Turnpike.

One potential solution proposed by DOT is to grass over where Hurd Avenue connects to Shelton Road, make the other end of Hurd Avenue a dead-end, and construct a driveway from the Grange to Route 111.

One problem with that solution, according to a woman in the audience is that some traffic would turn left onto 111 with other cars turning left from 111 into the driveway.

Another option would be to make Hurd Avenue a fourth leg into the roundabout. But Britnell said more land would have to be taken from the Grange and the solution would pose safety issues.

Another option includes making one end of Hurd Avenue a dead-end and grassing over its connection to 110, with no driveway coming out from the Grange.

Britnell said no Hurd Avenue solution has been chosen and encouraged residents to share any ideas and concerns they may have while DOT's engineers continue to tackle the issue.

"It we build this, we will still see accidents," Britnell said of the roundabout. "I won't say that we won't. The hope is there will be less serious fender-benders."

Slowing Down

Most of the people attending the meeting appeared to see the positive aspects of a roundabout, but some questioned whether it would work in Monroe.

Robert Somley of Lois Drive believes it would work better in city limit areas, but not where it is being proposed.

"Cars are going 55 mph here," he said. "How will you get them to slow down? Fifty-five, 15, boom — an accident."

Britnell said, "It's about traffic calming. You can't go from 55 to 10, you have to go from 55 to 45, etc."

One man suggested moving the roundabout higher up on Route 111, taking a portion of Fireman's Field, so Hurd Avenue is not affected at all.

David "Rocky" Davin, a crew leader with the Monroe Highway Department, who lives on Monroe Turnpike, expressed his belief that drivers would get annoyed at having to slow down for the roundabout, and will speed up once they get through it.

Ron Deaso, whose house is at the corner of Hurd Avenue and 110, may lose a portion of his yard for the roundabout and the street off his driveway could become a cul-de-sac. He expressed concern about the potential for snow being plowed to the end of his driveway, blocking his way out. Deaso is an emergency service technician for Sippin Energy and is often on call.

Donna Colaiacomo of Lois Circle said if there has to be a roundabout, she favors the option that would allow traffic to turn right from 110 onto Hurd Avenue and right onto 110 from Hurd.

Though Andrew Amalfitano, a Hurd Avenue resident of 56 years, is concerned over how the proposal may affect his street, he told Britnell that he did a great job in his presentation.

John Brooks of Lois Circle was optimistic over the roundabout.

"I think this could be a catalyst," he said. "Everyone in this town is going way too fast. I think that this circle, once we get it right, can be part of a greater discussion on slowing down in this town."

jim laguardia September 13, 2012 at 12:05 PM
how would this construction fit in with the repairs for the small bridge on rte111... there was an article a while back saying it would be major work for and a major detour ??
Rob September 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM
This is the most asinine thing I've ever heard, and it's typical! What, pray tell, would be wrong with the simplest solution: a traffic light? If there is anyplace that would require a roundabout, I would strongly urge it be installed in the area around the town green. Turn what is now vaguely square into a circle, eliminating some of those oblique road intersections where you have to crane your neck at an unnatural degree to see if a car is going to barrel down 111 and cream you. A traffic light would have the effect of slowing down traffic on 111 so that by the time it reaches Fan Hill Road people can cross 111 safely. Better yet, how 'bout another traffic light at, say, Church St.? What is the big objection to traffic lights in Connecticut, anyway? They're not quaint, with no British influences? Why don't we install some zigzag crossing lanes, and blinking streetlamps, too? (The use of the term 'roundabout' instead of the more common 'traffic circle' or 'rotary' is ripe with opportunities for sarcasm. It's kind of like Martha Stewart waxing sentimental about childhood visits from Father Christmas.)
Rob September 13, 2012 at 12:36 PM
P.S. The solution the state is proposing would change the situation that exists now (where there is some stoppage) to one where there is no stopping at all. I can see people plowing into that berm at the middle of the roundabout, when they are going straight on 111, and people on 110 will continue to be at the mercy of people driving too fast on 111. A traffic light, on the other hand, forces people to stop. You can't argue with a red light. Think slowing down will be a problem on 111? Then install lots of rumble strips along 111, and some of those 'warning: signal ahead' signs with blinking lights. It seems to me that we bend over backwards in this area to avoid installing traffic lights - as if by doing so we are going to surrender to the modern world or something. While I'm on that subject, did anyone at the hearing bring up the lack of a traffic light at Monroe Elementary? The fact that there is no traffic light there is a prime illustration of just plain negligence on the part of our state government... which is too busy planting new trees and bushes on the Merritt Parkway (so they can crash down and kill people 15 years from now.)
Alex September 13, 2012 at 01:24 PM
"A roundabout in Monroe would also be fully funded by the federal government" Would a traffic light also? If not, I think the choice is easy.
Rob September 13, 2012 at 02:10 PM
... which just raises the question: why would the federal government favor roundabouts (to the point of providing funding for their installation) and not a traffic light? That doesn't mean it would be a good idea, just because it wouldn't cost anybody anything locally.
Steve Kirsch September 13, 2012 at 02:52 PM
At the meeting it was explained that a traffic light would result in more crashes and because safety would decline the state would not pay the cost. The difference between a "traffic circle" and a roundabout was explained. While both are round, they function very differently. They also pointed out that a roundabout will slow people down and reduce the feeling as a driver that you are being delayed compared to a light. They said that the data shows that a roundabout reduces a drivers feeling that he/she needs to rapidly speed up when leaving the roundabout whereas drivers speed up after a traffic light to make up time.
Steve Kirsch September 13, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Jim, the bridge project is still on schedule, based on information I received from the state back in July. The bridge would be done several years before the roundabout would be started. I think the detour for the bridge work is still part of the plan.
QWERTY September 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Does this "traffic circle" or "roundabout" negate the fact that 111 has 10 other lights on it? I'm not against this idea but it shows how appalling our government is when it comes to spending money.
Chris September 13, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Rob, Do some research. Your view shows that you did none. A modern roundabout is not a traffic circle which is not a rotary. They are three VERY different animals. The same way a traffic light with a protected left turn is MUCH different that no left turn or a permissive left turn only light. Can't argue with a red light? What about the whole time it is green? people don't slow down for green lights. Plowing into a berm? Great! Means they can't plow into me when I come across the intersection and kill all of us. The simplest solution usually is a roundabout - not a traffic light. Gotta think those Traffic Engineers with university degrees and experience on thousands of projects across the country are just a little bit crafty wouldn't ya think?
Alex September 13, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Rob there are many benefits to a roundabout that they highlighted in the article so that's likely why the Fed wants to utilize them more now. Ever drove around Cape Cod? The smaller roundabouts across the island there demonstrate how efficient they can be (Heck, even the large rotary as you enter the cape via the Bourne Bridge does a descent job handling the amount of traffic volume there). Sure some drivers are unfamiliar with them, but that is only temporary and should not be an issue over the long term. This doesn't even get into the maintenance; with a light, a power outage, or accident hitting the pole can cripple the intersection (then we have to pay an officer to direct traffic or stick a temp stop sign up, which is much worse. A roundabout doesn't require electricity.
Rob September 13, 2012 at 06:09 PM
My reply to Chris is, these are the same DOT folks who, earlier this summer, had the traffic on the Merritt narrowed to one lane for a three mile stretch. At the front of the line was the reason: they were putting in more trees and bushes. Great thinkers, these pros! The collision-hindering properties of bushes aside, most of these were TREES, not bushes. This was at a time when the state had just finished laying off people and cutting services. The trees were put there for aesthetic reasons not for safety. Despite the arguments about the putative differences between roundabouts, rotaries and traffic circles, I still think it's a lame idea - and I somehow think, 10 or 15 years from now, someone, somewhere is going to trot out "new research" showing just what a bad idea they are/were.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »