ODOT and county engineers are planning more in the Stark County area.

The increasing number of roundabouts in the Stark County area is challenging many motorists' intuitive belief that the most effective way through an intersection is a straight line.

Undeterred by public skepticism, the Ohio Department of Transportation and local governments plan to build more in the coming years.

Roundabouts reduce congestion and increase safety, said ODOT District 4 spokesman Justin Chesnic.

"If there's crashes in a roundabout, they tend to be less severe like a fender bender ... as opposed to a more severe angle crash at an intersection, like if someone runs a red light or they slam into somebody going at a higher rate of speed. You're improving traffic flow and you're reducing serious crashes."

Planners consider them ideal for intersections with a high number of serious accidents or regularly congested intersections with moderate but not heavy traffic. Roundabouts, which often cost $1 million to $1.2 million to construct, can be one lane or two lanes.

Motorists recently visiting Hartville Hardware in Lake Township gave mixed reviews of the county's two newest roundabouts. ODOT's contractor in late November opened the roundabouts at state Route 619 at Kaufmann Avenue NW and King Church Avenue NW.

Don Longshore, 58, of Akron, he believes the new intersections frustrate motorists.

"A lot of people are rude. They won't let people come through especially when it's their turn," he said. "I have to wait for traffic to die down to get through."

Mark Miller, 59, of Lake Township, isn't a fan, either.

"I actually try to avoid them," he said. "My wife hates them, probably because they're new."

Miller added that he believes they decrease safety as "people aren't used to them yet."

But Kristine DiLauro of Springfield Township in Portage County said, "I think they keep traffic flowing. And I think they're less likely to cause accidents."

More coming

Stark County has six roundabouts, according to the Stark County Area Transportation Study.. All opened within the past five years.

The ones maintained by the Stark County Engineer's office are:

Paris Avenue NE and Easton Street NE in Nimishillen Township. Opened in 2014. According to SCATS, the intersection had five reported crashes the three years before the roundabout and five crashes during the three years after it opened, but the five before resulted in injuries while one after resulted in an injury. The roundabout had no accidents in 2018.
Shepler Church Avenue SW and Fohl Street SW in Bethlehem Township. Opened in 2015 at a cost of $1.2 million. SCATS rated the intersection the county's sixth most hazardous intersection with 24 accidents between 2006 and 2012 due apparently to the lack of conventional 90-degree angles. The intersection in three years prior to construction had 13 accidents and six after the roundabout opened. But none of those six involved injuries.
Beeson Street NE and Freshley Avenue NE in Lexington Township. Opened in 2017. The intersection had 12 crashes the two years before construction and four during 2018. Federal grants covered 80 percent of the project cost of $865,000.

Canton has one roundabout:

The O'Jays Parkways NE, Mahoning Road NE, 12th Street NE and Maple Avenue NE in Canton. Opened in 2016. The roundabout portion of the multiphase project cost about $400,000. Eleven accidents after construction but none with injuries. The intersection had 15 crashes the three years prior.

Canton City Engineer Dan Moeglin said "there's an educational component" in getting motorists conditioned to driving through roundabouts.

But, "I think (roundabouts are) a very good tool in the tool box. We've been very happy with the one we have in place and are looking forward to at least a couple of more. They're not the right solution for every situation but where we use them, they generally reduce accidents and when you do have accidents they're lower speed and typically much fewer injuries and less damage."

ODOT has the two new roundabouts in Lake Township. The King Church intersection had 14 reported crashes the three years prior to construction. The Kaufman intersection had nine accidents the three years before construction and has had one accident since its roundabout opened. Both were part of a $10 million project that includes road widening and resurfacing.

ODOT and local governments plan to build at least four and possibly seven more roundabouts in Stark County through 2025.

Contractors are set to begin construction late this spring or early this summer at 30th Street NE and Harrisburg Avenue NE on the border between Canton and Plain Township on U.S. Route 62, part of a $5.5 million joint project between the Stark County Engineer's office and ODOT that includes drainage work and widening. Workers are expected to open the roundabout around August 2020.

The Stark County Engineer's office will oversee construction of three or four roundabouts. They are:

Pittsburg Avenue NW and Shuffel Street NW in Jackson Township to relieve traffic congestion. Project to be bid July 2021 to June 2022.
Pittsburg Avenue NW and Orion Street NW in Jackson Township to relieve traffic congestion. Project to be bid July 2021 to June 2022. Whether this will a roundabout was to be contingent on the consultant findings. Estimated cost of project including intersections of Shuffel and Orion with Pittsburg is $3.5 million with at least $2.5 million covered by federal grants.
Pittsburg Avenue NW and Mt. Pleasant Street NW in Jackson Township. Project to be bid July 2022 to June 2023.
Strausser Street NW and Lake O'Springs Avenue NW in Jackson Township. Project to be bid July 2023 to June 2024

According to SCATS, Canton is also considering constructing a roundabout at 11th Street SE and Market Avenue S sometime after July 2023, and Moeglin added the city is looking at building roundabouts on Tuscarawas Street W west of Interstate 77 five years or more in the future. ODOT is also looking at building a roundabout at state Route 619 and McCallum Avenue NE in Lexington Township, sometime during or after 2025.

Investing in roundabouts

The city of Green in Summit County has built three. One on Massillon Road and Steese opened in 2009; Lauby and Greensburg roads by Akron-Canton Airport opened in 2015 and Route 619 and Pickle Road opened late last year.

The city is on the verge of completing a fourth by the city's Giant Eagle supermarket on Corporate Woods Parkway and has about eight others in the works, said Dave Schemansky, a Canton native who retired Friday as Green's engineering project manager.

"Roundabouts typically on average reduce the number of accidents by an average of 40 percent," said Schemansky, who said his data came from the Federal Highway Administration and the Insurance Institute. "The number of serious injuries ... reduced by practically 70 percent. The reduction in fatalities just a little over 90 percent."

He said prior to the construction of the Lauby/Greensburg roundabout, the intersection had 42 accidents. Since it opened, the intersection had three accidents until the end of 2017.

"They weren't towed away, they drove away," Schemansky said. "Typically, that's what you see in roundabout accidents. The vehicles drive away. They're side swipes. They're not angular collisions. They're not T-bones."

In addition, a single-lane roundabout can handle 17,000 vehicles a day, a more than four-fold improvement over 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles a day for a typical intersection with signals, the road planner said. And roundabout don't have traffic signals that have to be maintained.

But he acknowledges that much of the public feels hostile to roundabouts.

"They hate them. They think they're going to be creating all kinds of crazy accidents. The statistics show just the opposite," Schemansky said.

Donna Synder of Green said she was apprehensive about the Massillon Road and Steese Road roundabout when it opened in 2009. But she said the number of crashes at the intersection have significantly declined.

"The older folks, they had to get used to it. I think it's been good," she said. "I didn't know I would like it, at first, but I do."

Reach Repository writer Robert Wang at (330) 580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @rwangREP