By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald
KIMBALL TWP. – After talking about it for several years, the St. Clair County Road Commission says it is ready to bring the county its first roundabout.
The roundabout will replace a four-way stop at Range and Griswold roads on the border of Kimball and Port Huron townships.
The $600,000 project will be paid for with federal dollars for projects that improve air quality.
Kirk Weston, road commission director, said construction is expected to begin in late summer and be completed in the fall.
“We did a study to determine a need there based on traffic volume, safety, traffic patterns and how much idle time the intersection sees,” Weston said. “The intersection sees quite a bit of congestion in the afternoon and has more to do with traffic delays.”
Weston said the roundabout is being built because of the number of backups at the intersection when there are train delays or during rush hour.
“If you go there at 4 p.m., there are six to eight cars backed up,” he said. “If there is a train delay, there are 15 to 20 cars backed up. It’s to help keep that traffic moving.”
An overpass to alleviate train delays won’t be done until until 2016 or 2017, Weston said.
“We’ll build the overpass after this is done depending on where our funding is,” Weston said. “We are continuing to work toward getting the rest of the funding needed for the overpass.”
That means motorists still will have to wait for trains until the overpass is built.
“It will still affect traffic at the intersection if there is a roundabout there or not,” said Bill Hazelton, director of engineering for the road commission. “No matter what we do there, the train will affect the intersection until we get the overpass built. We are looking at the future to get this done so everything runs smoothly in the area.”
The roundabout is in its design stage and was originally pitched as part of one project that was phased into two pieces. The first phase of the project, which included the construction of the Michigan Road overpass in Port Huron Township, was completed last year.
After the design for the roundabout is completed, it will be sent to the Michigan Department of Transportation, which reviews the plans and makes comments or revisions.
“MDOT will then bid the project for us and then they basically have oversight on that job since it is federally funded,” Weston said. “Design would be ready some time before June.”
Hazelton said installing a traffic light at the intersection would not have qualified the project for federal clear air funds.
“It wouldn’t have qualified for funding if they had put a stoplight at the intersection,” Hazelton said. “We wouldn’t have gotten funding from that grant because a traffic light wouldn’t improve the air quality.”
The road commission is also in negotiations for property acquisition where the overpass would go. Weston said the commission hopes to acquire the 70 acres that are needed by spring.
Weston said the project was discussed with Kimball Township and Port Huron Township officials, as well as fire departments and emergency medical services.
In that discussion the road commission explained that the roundabout would not only cut down on car emissions, but would also reduce fatal car accidents.
According to a traffic crash report by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, there was one fatality from the 24 crashes at the intersection from 2009 to 2013.
“It’s a different way of moving traffic in a safe and more efficient manner,” Hazelton said. “If someone is hesitant about a roundabout it’s because it’s something new.”
Kimball Township Supervisor Rob Usakowski said he expects the roundabout to limit collisions.
“It’s a very busy intersection to just have stops signs there,” he said. “We’ve had some crashes there in the past.”
Port Huron Township Supervisor Bob Lewandowski hopes the roundabout will prevent the long backups and keep traffic moving at a steady pace.
While he has been in touch with the road commission, Lewandowski knows residents will have to get through construction at one of its busiest intersections.
“The construction will have an impact, but that’s part of what you have to deal with to get new roads put in,” Lewandowski said. “It will be an inconvenience for a while, but we will get through it.”
Jennifer Schuyler, who lives on Griswold Road just west of the intersection in Kimball Township, said she has been stuck at the intersection a number of times during the week.
Schuyler said she is in favor of the roundabout, but understands if other residents have their concerns.
She is worried about the summer construction.
“It will probably be a headache for us,” she said. “The construction is what I’m most worried about. But it will be a good thing in the long run.”
Weston said a construction detour has yet to be established.
“We normally design these things to see if we can do it under traffic or if we need a detour route,” he said. “That comes after the completion of the design.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 29, 2014)