By Peter H. Milliken
Mahoning County’s first roundabout will open this week at Mathews and Sheridan roads.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday. County officials and officials from Boardman, Poland and Struthers have been invited to attend.
The intersection has been closed since June 16 for installation of the one-lane traffic circle by Parella-Pannunzio Inc. of Austintown under a $696,693 contract with the county.
“We haven’t had very many issues at all out there. The job’s been very smooth,” said Patrick Ginnetti, county engineer.
The project, funded by federal money and local gasoline tax revenues, is designed to improve traffic flow and safety.
The intersection, which formerly was controlled by a traffic light, now has no traffic light or stop signs and will feature a continuous, counterclockwise flow of traffic.
Vehicles outside the circle must yield to those within it, said Ginnetti. “There’ll be yield signs at every entry point,” he added.
One-lane roundabouts reduce fatal crashes by 90 percent, injury-causing crashes by 75 percent, pedestrian crashes by 30 percent to 40 percent and bicycle crashes by 10 percent compared with intersections with traffic lights, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which opened a one-lane roundabout this month near Erie.
During peak traffic periods, roundabouts reduce delays by commonly carrying about 30 percent more vehicles than similar-sized intersections with traffic lights, PennDOT said.
“It’s going to slow the cars down as they get to the roundabout, but they’re going to be continuously moving, so you shouldn’t have the backups. And with the cars slowing down, if they yield properly and allow cars to maneuver in and out, you shouldn’t have any accidents,” or “very few” accidents, Ginnetti said.
Previously, some accidents occurred at Mathews and Sheridan because motorists were “trying to force the left turn.”
He added: “You did have some major delays at that intersection. Any left-turn movement stopped traffic.”
The roundabout “will enable traffic flow to move much more quickly through that intersection,” Ginnetti said.
PennDOT offered some tips for navigating a roundabout:
Slow down when approaching the circle, and be prepared to yield to any pedestrians in the crosswalk.
Approach the yield line, look left for approaching traffic within the circle, and give it the right of way.
Enter the roundabout only when there is a safe gap in traffic, stopping at the yield line, if necessary, until there is a safe gap.
Within the circle, use your right turn signal as you approach your exit, watching for and yielding to any pedestrians in the crosswalk.
“It’s a one-lane roundabout, but you have that concrete truck apron that’s there for delivery trucks, garbage trucks, school buses and fire trucks and things of that nature that have a bigger turning radius,” Ginnetti said of the Mathews-Sheridan roundabout. “They’ll be able to maneuver it,” he added.
A video on safe use of the roundabout will be shown in the county engineer’s booth at the Canfield Fair, he said.
A roundabout education diagram and video are posted on the county engineer’s website.