VALPARAISO | Roundabouts still give some people a rash, but information provided by the city engineer's office shows Valparaiso's first roundabout is doing what officials hoped it would do.
Engineering Director Tim Burkman said the Eastgate roundabout at Lincolnway, Sturdy Road and LaPorte Avenue had 26 accidents last year. That made it one of the top three worst intersections in the city for crashes, but it is less than the 35 reported in 2011. The big difference from the old triangle alignment is in the type of accidents.
In 2006, before the roundabout, the triangle intersection had 29 accidents with 13 personal injuries, some of them serious due to the right angle, head-on or high-speed nature of the collisions. Of the 2012 accidents, only two involved complaints of neck or back pain, and even the vehicle damage was minimal for most, under $2,500 total for the two vehicles involved.
Other data shows:
- Nine of the accidents were the result of vehicles sliding on snow, ice or wet pavement.
- Two were single-vehicle accidents where the driver lost control and hit a curb.
- Twelve were rear-end accidents described as a "bump" between vehicles waiting to enter the roundabout.
- Twelve accidents involved the failure to yield or sideswiping another on entering the roundabout.
Burkman said traffic counts show 36,000 vehicles a day went through the roundabout in 2009, or 13 million a year. The number probably has grown, but even at that rate it means there is one accident for every 500,000 vehicles.
"When reviewing accident statistics, it's not just the number of accidents but, more importantly, the severity of accidents that should be evaluated," he said. "As I tell the elementary school groups I am invited to speak to about roundabouts, accidents that occur at the roundabouts are the type that give your mom and dad a bad day, not one that lands you in the hospital."
The city has added roundabouts at Silhavy Road and Vale Park Road, Cumberland Drive and Cumberland Crossing Drive and two on the overpass for the new interchange at Vale Park and Ind. 49. Construction on "the mother of all roundabouts" at Vale Park, Roosevelt Road and North Calumet Avenue will begin this spring.
Asked where the next roundabout will be built, Burkman said none are planned — yet. He said the city considered one at North Calumet and Burlington Beach Road but decided to go with widening, turn lanes and other improvements instead.
"Roundabouts are not the perfect solution for every intersection. We have to weigh the cost/benefit ratios, right of way availability and the traffic volumes and the level of improvement needed to gain efficiency. Also, they are expensive. We have gotten 80 percent to 90 percent federal funding for the existing roundabouts.
"It would take a grant we don't now have to do another one, and we don't have one that we are really considering now. We are balancing the problem areas with the available funding and making decisions appropriate to specific intersections," Burkman said.
He said the Eastgate roundabout has had a dramatic impact on travel times through the intersection, especially during peak hours. He said it was not unusual to take five to 10 minutes to traverse the triangle intersection during the afternoon rush hour, and he recently timed the trip at a minute and 13 seconds under the same conditions.
"The roundabouts save time and money (for gasoline), and there's the safety."