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City set to upgrade confusing intersection

March 27, 2009
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM Journal Staff Writer and The Associated Press

MARQUETTE -A type of traffic junction common in European countries is on its way to Marquette.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning to build the first roundabout in the Upper Peninsula at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Front Street in 2010. Staff from the MDOT Ishpeming Transportation Service Center will present the plans at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lakeview Arena.

According to MDOT's plans for the roundabout, vehicles will enter a one-way stream of traffic, traveling counter-clockwise around a central "island." Motorists leave the roundabout as they come to the street they wish to get to.

Article Photos

Motorists travel through the U.S. 41/Front Street intersection during the lunch time rush Thursday afternoon in Marquette. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

Aaron Johnson, an MDOT engineer, said Tuesday's meeting will be the first chance for the public to look at the project in-depth. He said the current intersection causes significant traffic backups.

"The beauty of (roundabouts) is they keep on moving. You've got traffic stuck at this intersection right now. It causes significant delays. A roundabout continues to flow and you don't get backups of traffic," Johnson said.

Johnson said there is going to be a learning curve involved with residents negotiating the roundabout.

"There have been learning curves wherever roundabouts have gone in. But they make sense, and are not difficult. You yield and enter upon a safe chance to enter," he said.

Although local drivers are familiar with the current intersection, City Planner/Zoning Administrator Dennis Stachewicz Jr. said visitors to the area and pass-through traffic find it confusing.

He said studies on roundabouts have shown that they are far safer than typical intersections.

"Because any of the collision types you have with this - there will never be head-ons or t-bones or anything serious - they're basically side to side," he said. "The likelihood for fatalities and serious accidents decreases significantly with a roundabout."

Johnson said between now and 2010 MDOT would provide information about the roundabout through videos, public meetings and on the Internet.

Stachewicz said a roundabout at that intersection has been in the city's master plan since at least 2003.

"This project has been a long time coming. I am very excited that we are getting some progressive transportation techniques," he said.



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