IRVING Despite general opposition from the community, the roundabout at Routes 5, 20 and 438 has been operational for four months with few problems.
The $14.6 million dollar project, which includes the construction of a new bridge as well as the roundabout, was planned for many years before gaining approval in 2011.
Although there has been general consensus from the community that replacing the 83-year-old bridge was in the best interest of the public's safety, opinions about the roundabout have not been as positive.
Photo by Al Liedke
The roundabout at Routes 5, 20 and 438 has been operational since Nov. 1 with only one major accident reported by the New York State Department of Transportation.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Tractor trailers navigate the roundabout at Routes 5, 20 and 438. It was predicted this would be difficult for large vehicles, but there have been few incidents since the roundabout opened on Nov. 1.
Submitted Photo by Al Liedke
The installation of the steel beams for the new bridge over Cattaraugus Creek were completed before construction stopped for the winter. The bridge is on schedule to be completed by the end of 2014.
Before the roundabout was constructed, members of the community questioned the safety of the unfamiliar traffic pattern and whether large vehicles like tractor trailers and snowplows would be able to navigate it.
The roundabout became fully operational on Nov. 1, 2013. According to Department of Transportation Regional Public Information Officer Susan Surdej, in the four months since the roundabout has been in place, only one major accident has occurred.
"There has only been one major accident at the roundabout since it opened and that was on January 8, when we were having one of the first really heavy snow events. A tractor trailer attempted to drive through the center, he didn't negotiate the roundabout at all. This was when the Thruway was closed but this has been the only incident," she said.
According to the Erie County Sheriff's Office there have been two property damage accidents at the roundabout and one near it since Nov. 1. State Police in Collins did not have a number of accidents but said the number has not increased since the roundabout's installation.
Surdej also added that the NYSDOT has not had any problems plowing the roundabout.
Previously, Surdej explained there were several options for the bridge and intersection project, but it was determined building a lane bridge and constructing a modern roundabout was the most feasible and met the project objectives of increasing safety and improving the bridge's safety rating for 30 years.
According to the DOT's website, roundabouts are safer and reduce delays. According to studies by the Institute for Highway Safety and NYSDOT on 23 roundabouts, crashes decreased 39 percent, total injuries decreased 76 percent and serious injuries and fatalities declined by 89 percent.
It is explained these figures are because of a decrease in the number of "conflict points," or potential places for collisions, from 32 at a traditional intersection to eight at a modern roundabout.
The website explains that modern roundabouts accommodate vehicles from tractor trailers to bicycles and also pedestrians. For information on the modern roundabout, go to www.dot.ny.gov/roundabouts.
The DOT website explained roundabouts are being constructed in several states, and that after construction, the approval rating for the roundabout increases.
According to a Seneca Nation of Indians official, they have received no complaints about the new traffic pattern, which was approved by the nation prior to the start of construction. It was also noted that restoration and streetscaping will begin at the roundabout in the spring.
However, there are still some holdouts in Hanover.
Hanover resident and Planning Board Member Ronald Brennan has voiced his opinion at several planning board meetings that he believes the roundabout is a struggle to negotiate for tractor trailers.
"I think it should have been bigger," he said.
Brennan is not alone in his opinion, but thus far the prediction that there would be more accidents has not held true.
While the roundabout is nearly completed, with just aesthetic work left to complete in the spring, construction on the bridge over Cattaraugus Creek continued until winter shut down work.
According to Surdej, the erection of the steel beams in phase one was completed and construction on the bridge will begin again at the end of March. She said the project is on schedule to have the bridge completed in 2014 with restoration and cleanup expected to carry over into 2015.
The bridge over Cattaraugus Creek was built in 1931 and is the only bridge in New York state on a flood watch. It is also the only bridge besides the Thruway to cross Cattaraugus Creek between Chautauqua and Erie counties. In 2007, the bridge received a condition rating of 3.875 on a scale of 1-9 where 9 is the best. In 2011, an emergency creek bank stabilization project was completed in preparation for the construction of the new bridge. The bridge was posted with a weight limit in 2012 until repairs could be made. The project was awarded to the contractor, Union Concrete and Construction Corp of West Seneca in April 2013. The plan is to construct most of the new bridge beside the old bridge, tear down the old bridge and complete the new bridge.
More information and updates on the project can be found at www.nysdot.gov, clicking the projects link at the top and entering PIN 5034.98.
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