As Ohio University students moved in last week, many of them used a new roundabout on Stimson Avenue to get to their dorms and apartments.
The roundabout, part of a $2.2 million project that improved McKinley and Stimson avenues, was completed in July and will have traffic calming effects on Stimson Avenue, City Planner Paul Logue said. Logue said the intersection of Stimson and McKinley avenues is subject to high speeds of traffic.
“It is a unique intersection because it’s an off-ramp from U.S. 33,” Logue said. “If you think about most times when you’re coming off of a highway, you usually come to a stop. This one, you’re coming off at a high rate of speed … and then all of the sudden you’re just on a city street.”
Of the $2.2 million cost for the project, OU paid $750,000, and the City of Athens paid $300,000, in addition to $250,000 to match one of the grants from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Other grants were provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Ohio Development Services.
Logue said the roundabout and the improvements to McKinley Avenue would help area businesses like Jackie O’s Brewery by creating easier traffic access.
“We’re looking at encouraging and supporting our manufacturing businesses along that corridor,” Logue said. “We want to do something for them.”
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said the roundabout was added to keep traffic in the area flowing instead of sitting at a traffic light.
“That was to slow traffic down but also to make the new McKinley Avenue to where traffic continued to flow rather than to signalize it,” Patterson said. “The other option would've been to throw up another traffic signal where McKinley Avenue comes into Stimson Avenue, and that wasn't the correct way to make that project work. The roundabout was the right way to do things.”
According to a from the Federal Highway Administration, roundabouts can be effective in reducing crashes by 50 to 90 percent compared with traffic signs and, when visible, are “effective in reducing motor vehicle speeds.”
The report notes, however, there are certain disadvantages associated with roundabouts, as some motorists try to shortcut going around the entire circle.
“Motorists have a tendency to shortcut the turn to avoid driving around the outside of the central island. The islands should, preferably, be raised and landscaped,” the report reads. “If this is not possible, painted island markings should be provided.”
The island at the Stimson Avenue roundabout is raised, and dividers between lanes help prevent shortcutting.
Logue said the roundabout would increase both safety and traffic flow.
“Roundabouts are good ways of moving traffic efficiently without having traffic at red lights,” Logue said.