Roundabouts are reducing fatalities, injuries and crashes at intersections that had been considered dangerous in Pennsylvania, PennDOT officials report.
“We continue to be encouraged by the safety advantages of the modern roundabout,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “Lives are being saved and injuries reduced. The data cannot be denied.”
PennDOT recently reviewed data for 22 roundabouts on state routes at intersections that were previously stop sign or signal controlled.
These roundabouts were selected based on having at least three years of crash data available before and after the roundabouts were built.
The roundabouts in the study were built from 2005 to 2015.
The closest roundabout included in the study is at Routes 29 and 73 in Lower Frederick Township, Montgomery County. That roundabout was built in 2009.
The PennDOT data is based on police-submitted crash reports spanning 2000 through 2019 shows fatalities at the 22 locations were reduced from two to zero. Crashes with serious injuries dropped from 10 to 1.
Accidents with property damage increased to 14 from 12. The increase in property damage may be due to motorists getting accustomed to the roundabouts, officials said.
While there is not enough data available from the four roundabouts that opened in Berks County in the last two years to determine how they are performing, there have not been any reports of fatal or serious crashes, according to Jan Huzvar, PennDOT spokeswoman.
These four roundabouts opened in the last two years in Berks:
Routes 222 and 662, Richmond Township, summer 2018.
Routes 662 and 73, Oley Township, summer 2019, also known as the east split.
Route 183, Aviation Road, Bern Township, late 2019. The roundabout was built to help with traffic at the new Tower Health Behavior facility.
Routes 662 and 73, Ruscombmanor Township, late 2019, also known as the west split.
Route 222 South extending from Lehigh County to Reading is the primary highway in Berks where the bulk of the roundabouts are being constructed because of heavy traffic congestion.
The average daily traffic volume on Route 222 in Maidencreek Township is 26,015 north of Route 73 and 22,562 south of Route 73.
The first Berks roundabout opened on Route 222 in Richmond Township in spring 2018, and two others are under construction in Maidencreek Township.
Dollars and sense
Alan D. Piper, Berks County transportation planner, said the county has not done a comprehensive study of the impacts of the local roundabouts, but it appears the roundabouts have been successful at reducing the number of severe accidents and fatalities and reducing overall traffic congestion.
“The roundabout virtually eliminates the possibility of a high-speed collision and its resulting impacts,” Piper said.
Piper said roundabouts provide an affordable option to allow a relatively smooth flow of traffic along a corridor when compared to traffic signals, which often cannot be coordinated to provide a smooth traffic flow.
In terms of cost, a roundabout has a higher initial cost than a traffic signal, but it does not have the associated maintenance that a signal would have over the long term, officials said.
Piper said there is very little maintenance required after roundabouts are built.
“We feel that roundabouts have an important role to play in our transportation system and have plans for additional roundabouts,” Piper said.
Piper acknowledged roundabouts may not be appropriate everywhere because each location has its own unique set of traffic and community impacts.
Crews with J.D. Eckman Inc., Atglen, Chester County, are in the midst of a $26.6 million project on Route 222 in Maidencreek Township.
The project consists of roundabouts at Genesis Drive and Schaeffer Road and widening the intersection of Routes 222 and 73 and installing turn arrows.
The project began in September 2019 and is expected to be completed in November, said Ronald J. Young Jr., PennDOT spokesman.
These additional roundabouts are proposed on Route 222:
Route 222 at Long Lane, Maxatawny Township.
Route 222 at Richmond Road, Richmond Township.
Route 222 at Pleasant Hill Road, Richmond Township.
'No trouble at all'
Not everyone is convinced roundabouts are the answer to the traffic congestion.
Diane Hollenbach, Maidencreek Township manager, said while PennDOT is heavily invested in the success of roundabouts, there is still some concern on how well they will function in Maidencreek.
“While roundabouts in neighboring communities appear to be alleviating traffic problems, I believe that Maidencreek Township’s situation is unique because two roundabouts will be in close proximity to a traffic signal and the road has a high volume of truck traffic,” Hollenbach said.
Hollenbach said she remains optimistic the roundabout can reduce fatalities and that the addition of the two travel lanes and the left-turn arrows on Route 73 will be appreciated by residents.
Some motorists were confused when the roundabouts opened during summer 2019 at the intersections of Routes 73 and 662 in Oley and Ruscombmanor townships. The two are less than a mile from each other along Route 73. The Oley roundabout is at the intersection of 662. The Ruscombmanor roundabout is at the intersection of Oley Road.
No major accidents have been reported, but on Dec. 21 a motorist plowed into the median and knocked down a directional sign at the Ruscombmanor Township roundabout.
Township Supervisor Don Miller said the incident was the only crash.
Miller said new signage has been installed along the roundabout.
He said residents initially were skeptical, but he believes the roundabout is working.
“We were skeptical because it’s located at the bottom of two hills,” Miller said recently. “I just went through it today. There was some traffic. It’s working out well.”
The intersections of Routes 73 and 662 have been the sites of numerous serious crashes, including one that resulted in the death of an Oley Valley High School student in February 2011.
Ruth Ann Christman, owner of Christman's Meats & Deli, which is near the Oley roundabout, said the roundabout is serving its purpose.
“We have not had any accidents," Christman said. “It works out really well. It’s no trouble at all. Everyone is considerate and follows the traffic signs.”