After spinning wheels, roundabout gains traction

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PennDOT could begin construction on Pocopson Township project by mid-November

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

A roundabout is scheduled for construction at the intersection of Rt. 52, Wawaset Road, and Unionville-Lenape Road.

A roundabout is scheduled for construction at the intersection of Rt. 52, Wawaset Road, and Lenape-Unionville Road.

The goal was roundabout, but the action was direct as the Chester County commissioners advanced a road project in Pocopson Township on Wednesday.

At their regularly scheduled meeting, the commissioners approved an intergovernmental cooperation agreement between the county and Pocopson Township that authorizes the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to install a “roundabout” at the intersection of Lenape Road, South Wawaset Road, and Lenape-Unionville Road.

With a roundabout, a circular junction is created that slows traffic, which flows in one direction around a central island to access intersecting roads.

Eugene Blaum, a PennDOT spokesman, said on Wednesday that the project is a partnership in which the township is responsible for the design, engineering, and land acquisition while PennDOT, which must approve the design, will finance and implement the estimated $1.8 million construction phase.

George Gumas, the consultant project manager for PennDOT, said he expected construction bids to be opened in September. Work could begin as early as mid-November, he said, depending on weather conditions. He estimated the project would take about six months.

The Pocopson Township supervisors approved the intergovernmental agreement on Feb. 11. It calls for the county to dedicate 1.9 acres of the nearly 90-acre tract it owns adjacent to the intersection for an additional right-of-way and to provide a temporary construction easement on more than half an acre of the county property.

The project has been on the drawing board since at least 2007; an earlier design was rejected by PennDOT.  Plans are to replace the existing stop sign that controls the intersection with a roundabout. In addition, the project involves the construction of approximately 2000 linear feet of new tie-in roadways to connect to the roundabout, and the relocation of the driveway to the county’s Pocopson Home.

Under the terms of the agreement, the current access road to the Pocopson Home will not be closed until the new driveway is constructed. The roundabout configuration was selected as the best traffic-calming option for a difficult intersection that has been worsened by recent development in the area.

Blaum said roundabouts are gaining in popularity. In addition to the fact that research indicates that traffic accidents are less severe, roundabouts can ease congestion without the expense and delays associated with a traffic light.

Six or seven exist in the Philadelphia region, Blaum said, but they resulted from private enterprise. The Pocopson Township roundabout will be the first one in the area installed by PennDOT, he said.

Likening roundabouts to “an acquired taste,” Blaum said some motorists unfairly compare them to New Jersey circles, which have been phased out due to their unpopularity and high accident rates. “That’s like comparing apples and oranges,” Blaum said.

He explained that roundabouts use a tighter, less confusing configuration, confining traffic to a single lane. “I think as motorists get more accustomed to them,” they’ll be used more often, he said.

 

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