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Roundabout boosts safety, throws some for a loop

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A new roundabout at a main Center Grove intersection has caused problems for motorists who struggle to understand how it works.

Bargersville Assistant Police Chief Todd Bertram said most residents he’s seen using the roundabout at the intersection of Whiteland Road and County Road 144 know what to do.

But a few motorists have caused backups by stopping instead of yielding at the entrances of the roundabout, while others who exit the roundabout on the wrong street have had to turn around and go through it again, Bertram said.

At least one motorist has turned left and went the wrong way on the one-way roundabout — a mistake that could result in an accident or an $118 traffic ticket.

“It’s probably caused some honking, but no major police issues. The only big one was the person turning the wrong way,” Bertram said.

County officials opened the new roundabout in early December with hopes of making the intersection safer by preventing accidents and making traffic flow more smoothly for the nearly 10,000 motorists who use it daily.

Previously, motorists who used the intersection had a higher risk of getting in an accident because of the roads’ offset alignment. Motorists also had to wait in long lines at the intersection as cars stopped on Whiteland Road for traffic on County Road 144.

Whiteland resident Dale Johnson, who uses the roundabout regularly, said the roundabout has solved the accident and backup issues, and Bertram said Bargersville police have not responded to any accidents since it opened.

“I did think we would have some crashes. I thought the severity would be less because they’re not speeding, but I thought we would have a ton of fender benders from people trying to figure it out,” Bertram said.

County highway department director Luke Mastin said most people have been using the roundabout correctly, and the highway department has not heard any complaints or concerns about it. Mastin said he thought motorists would be familiar with the roundabout because the county built a similar roundabout at Morgantown and Fairview roads in 2010. But he said he expected motorists to have to get used to the new intersection.

“Any time you make a significant change to an intersection and how it functions, it takes people a while to get used to that,” Mastin said.

Bertram said he’s noticed motorists who are not sure how to use the new roundabout. The police officer said he’s seen motorists stop at the intersection when no other cars are in the roundabout and others turn around in driveways to go back and use the roundabout again.

While the county’s first roundabout at the intersection of Morgantown and Fairview roads is in the same township as the new roundabout, Bertram said motorists who drive on County Road 144 are often going to and from work and do not frequent the other intersection.

The new roundabout is also different because concrete barriers separate the two lanes leading into the roundabout from County Road 144, which can be confusing for motorists when they aren’t sure which lane to be in, Bertram said.

Going west on County Road 144, a left lane leads into the roundabout and a right lane allows motorists to turn onto Whiteland Road without entering the roundabout. Some motorists get confused when the lanes split and they can’t switch over after they choose a lane because of the concrete barrier, Bertram said.

“There’s no concrete barrier on Morgantown, so you could switch over if you need to,” Bertram said of the initial roundabout.

Bertram said he also is concerned with semitrailer drivers driving on a raised concrete area around the roundabout’s grass center. He is not sure what the area is for and said some trucks are driving in it when they don’t make sharp enough turns into the roundabout.

But that is what the area is for. The concrete area is called a “truck apron” and is meant for trucks to drive in when they don’t have enough room in the roundabout, Mastin said.

“They can use the area if they have issues as they turn through there. Some trailers might be long or oversized. That’s typically what it’s meant for,” Mastin said.

Most semitrailers should be able to fit in the roundabout without trouble because it is wider than other roundabouts, Mastin said.

The county has the option of making the roundabout two lanes instead of one but does not plan to do so until the amount of traffic warrants the addition, Mastin said.

Johnson, who lives near the roundabout and uses it at least twice daily, said traffic does not get backed up at the intersection like it did before and that the roundabout has made the area much safer. Johnson also said he’s seen semitrailers drive through the roundabout regularly and not have any problems.

“Some of the roundabouts I’ve seen, it’s hard to maneuver a semi through them. This one, they’re going through it all the time. It’s not a problem,” Johnson said.

Martinsville resident Seth Northern said he uses the roundabout at least eight times a week and could understand how some people might get confused because the intersection is at an odd angle. But for the most part, the roundabout has been a success, Northern said.

Northern is the vice president of the South Central Soccer Academy, which plays on the fields located near the new roundabout, and said the roundabout will prevent backups at the intersection during summer tournaments.

“When we host large tournaments and things like that, it’s going to help the traffic flow for our out-of-town guests,” Northern said.

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