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Roundabout Proposal Advances to July Public Hearing [VIDEO]

The Middletown Town Council voted Monday to move the proposal from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to the Planning Board for a recommendation on whether to proceed with the project.

Despite some concerns over authority, procedures, effectiveness and lack of public input to date, the Middletown Town Council decided Monday to allow a proposal for traffic circle and Coddington Highway to proceed for public review, with a final vote of the council expected in August.

In a 5-1 vote, with Councilor Antone Viveiros dissenting and Councilor Christopher Semonelli absent from the meeting, the council authorized a Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) proposal for two roundabout traffic circles to go before the Planning Board on July 13 for a public hearing.

The Planning Board is tasked with preparing a recommendation for the town on whether to proceed with the project. The Town Council retains final voting authority, but some council members on Monday night expressed misgivings about the process so far.

"...To date, the council has not received official notification from RIDOT of their request for the council to decide whether it chooses roundabouts or the traditional signalized intersection," Councilor Bruce Long stated via e-mail after the meeting. "It is customary to have a presentation by RIDOT for the council, and then to refer the issue to the Planning Board for its recommendation."

"The Council members should have the opportunity to question and exchange comments with RIDOT officials, before a town appointed board reviews the information," Long continued. "There is much more concern than traffic movement. This corridor is our downtown, and should be approached as such.”

Councilor Antone Viveiros said afterwards that he wanted to see more public input.

“I wanted RIDOT to make the public presentation with the ability for town to see the information and the public to ask questions," he said.

The proposal, put together by RIDOT, stems from an island-wide traffic study project managed by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission over the last two years.

Following Monday’s meeting, AIPC Chairman and former Planning Board member Richard Adams noted that public input also has been collected over the last two years before the roundabout recommendation was made as part of larger traffic and transportation studies.

The Town Council on Monday called the special meeting before its summer hiatus to take up the matter, after RIDOT made a special presentation to planners last week that was attended by four members from the council. At that meeting, computerized simulations of the two proposed traffic roundabouts were presented.

Like Long, Viveiros maintained that RIDOT should have made its official presentation last week to the Town Council. He also worried about the issue “becoming another wind turbine,” referring to when the Planning Board and Town Council last year disagreed on how to proceed regarding that issue and ultimately ended with a Town Council moratorium on new wind turbine applications.

Town Council President Art Weber on Monday night noted that there will be a public hearing when the Planning Board holds its July meeting. That will be part of its review process before that appointed board comes up with its recommendation for the council to receive and vote on as early as August.

Weber said the Town Council held its special meeting Monday night because the timing for the RIDOT project, advance planning and seasonal construction timeline remains tight.

If Middletown ultimately rejects traffic roundabouts for West Main Road, they’ll instead need to give the go-ahead for RIDOT to pursue the new signalization project, Weber said.

 “We have to tell RIDOT what we want," he said. "There’s about $5 million [in federal funds] set aside for the project already."

As for the effectiveness of roundabouts, based on the RIDOT simulations and data pulled together so far, Weber noted that the initial statistical indicators so far seem to favor roundabouts in favor of new signal alignments for West Main Road at Two-Mile Corner and Coddington Highway.

“In terms of quantifying traffic counts, accidents…it comes out in favor of roundabouts and the costs are about the same,” Weber said. “The planning and construction takes a little longer for roundabouts, because there’s a little more land involved and real estate issues to consider.”

For More Information

  • The RIDOT presentation and computerized simulations can be viewed in the photo gallery above.
  • Visit the RIDOT website for more information on this project.
ScottRAB June 29, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit www.iihs.org for safety facts. The safety comes from the ‘slow and go’ operation instead of the ‘stop or go fast’ way a stop light works (or the ‘keep going fast’ large traffic circle fantasy). The smaller size of the modern roundabout is what makes them safer and keeps speeds in the 20 mph range. This makes it much easier to avoid a crash or stop for pedestrians. It also means that if a crash happens the likelihood of injury is very low. Safety is the #1 reason there are over 2,200 modern roundabouts in the US today and many more on the way.
Kelly June 30, 2011 at 01:26 AM
By all means visit http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/roundabouts.html for safety facts and dig into the statistics to see how they would apply to Middletown. The IIHS statistics are drawn from studies dominated by single-lane roundabouts (in one study, 2/3 of the roundabouts were single lane), not the multi-lane ones being proposed here. In the same study, the majority of the roundabouts replaced intersections with stop signs, not the signalized intersections that would be replaced in Middletown. Studies cited by IIHS do show that replacing signalized intersections with multi-lane roundabouts reduces crashes, but only by about 5%. Compare that to crash reductions between 15 and 35 percent when left turn lanes are added to signalized intersections and it appears that roundabouts may not be Middletown’s safest option.
BC July 01, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Roundabouts require no electricity to operate, unlike traffic lights. Roundabouts continue to work when the power fails.They save fuel, time, and frustration.
Robert E July 01, 2011 at 04:52 PM
check out this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jesf4xFOg1Q
Robert E July 01, 2011 at 05:20 PM
check out this one http://www.ush.net/board/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=228863

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