Roundabouts keep traffic flowing through intersections, and that’s why traffic engineers like them.
But, unlike intersections with traffic lights, roundabouts don’t divide streams of traffic into packs with breaks between.
Residents near the intersection of State Road 44 and Kepler Road on DeLand’s east side told traffic engineers they fear they’ll never be able to pull out of their driveways if a roundabout is built at the intersection.
A rather small number of people attended the Florida Department of Transportation‘s Jan. 21 public hearing on the proposed roundabout, but those who were there voiced misgivings.
Rod Black said he already faces a long wait to pull out onto Kepler Road.
“Cars back all the way up to the church, and to get out of George Street, we have to wait to turn right or left,” he said at the public hearing.
Another speaker echoed Black’s concerns that a continuous flow of vehicles may worsen a situation that now offers residents some relief when drivers must stop for a red light.
“I’m going to have a problem with the circle coming out from Lake Charles Road,” the resident said. “Ninety-nine percent of the cars travel in the grass to get around. … This is not a good idea.”
Black also suggested persistent misunderstanding about roundabouts could be a problem.
“If it is approved, there should be some education about how to use it,” Black said.
The FDOT is drafting plans to replace the traffic signal at the busy crossing with a roundabout having two lanes in all four directions leading to and away from the intersection.
Frequent backups and congestion at the intersection during rush hours mean long waits for motorists trying to get through the chokepoint, and transportation planners and local civic leaders say a roundabout will move traffic more quickly and cause fewer accidents.
A few people are skeptical of the solution.
“This is the worst intersection because of all the people,” Karen Clark said.
FDOT Project Manager Todd Helton said public input will be taken into account as the design of the project continues.
“We take their comments back, and we provide comments to each one,” Helton said.
Design of the planned roundabout may be finished during the summer months, he said.
Design and engineering will cost approximately $1.4 million, according to Helton. The FDOT must still acquire some property for the project, especially at the northeast corner of the crossing, and along the south side of S.R. 44 eastward. Right-of-way costs are estimated at $4.5 million.
The roundabout is not currently funded for construction, Helton noted, so a start date for construction hasn’t been planned. The construction cost is now estimated at $4.7 million.
When construction does begin, Helton said, the intersection will be kept open while the work takes place. Construction of the roundabout may take about 18 months to complete.