MARQUETTE - Marquette area residents had plenty of questions for Michigan Department of Transportation officials about the roundabout planned to replace the U.S. 41/Front Street intersection.
MDOT officials spent more than an hour answering those questions and giving a short presentation about the project at the Citizens Forum Room on Thursday.
One resident asked what to do if an emergency vehicle is going through the roundabout.
Andy Sikkema, manager of MDOT's Transportation Service Center in Ishpeming, talks about the upcoming roundabout project during a meeting on Thursday evening at the Lakeview Arena. (Journal photo by Julia Woehrer)
Andy Sikkema, manager of MDOT's Transportation Service Center in Ishpeming, said the situation would be no different from any intersection - clear the intersection and pull off to the side of the road.
Another resident asked if there were any need for drivers to use directional signals while in the roundabout. MDOT officials said drivers should only use their directional signals if changing lanes.
Truck traffic was another concern. According to MDOT traffic lanes in the roundabout will be wide enough to accommodate truck traffic. In addition, truck drivers can drive on what's called a truck apron, an area of stamped concrete surrounding the central island that can be used as an extra lane by large vehicles.
MDOT officials said there may be sideswiping-type accidents in the roundabout but those types of accidents are far less severe than accidents where vehicles hit each other at 90 degree angles, typically experienced at regular intersections.
The $1.1 million project starts on May 3 and will end in late August. During construction, traffic on U.S. 41/M-28 will not be detoured but will be restricted to one lane in either direction at times. Front Street will be closed for 8-10 weeks during the first stage of the project, so traffic to and from downtown Marquette will be rerouted through the Grove Street/U.S. 41 intersection.
David Allie, who owns a downtown Marquette business, said if traffic approaching the city from the south was rerouted up U.S. 41 there would be nothing stopping those people from simply shopping at Wal-Mart. He suggested MDOT put up a sign at the Front Street/Lakeshore Boulevard intersection letting drivers know they can drive Lakeshore Boulevard to go downtown.
Sikkema and City Planner/Zoning Administrator Dennis Stachewicz Jr. said they would work together along with Downtown Development Authority Director Mona Lang to find a solution to that problem.
Information about roundabouts and how to drive them are available on the city of Marquette's Web site www.mqtcty.org and on MDOT Web sites www.michigan.gov/mdotprojects, and wwww.michigan.gov/drive.
When completed, the roundabout will be 150 feet in diameter, with two lanes entering it from the west, north and south. The intersection's current right turn lanes, from Front Street onto West U.S. 41 and from West U.S. 41 to South U.S. 41/ M-28, will remain in place. There will be yield signs before the entrances to the roundabout and the posted speed limit will be around 25 miles per hour.
Sikkema said MDOT officials will work closely with the city and the community during the roundabout's construction.
"I know that intersection needs to be changed and I just hope that this is the best route to take it," said local resident Ray Meininger.
Iris Katers, who was in the audience Thursday, said she had concerns about the roundabout but she thought in general it was a good idea.
"There will be accidents and sideswiping but the severity of the accidents should be reduced," she said.
She said there will be some adjustment time but she expected Marquette drivers to become used to the new intersection.
"Marquette people are like anybody else. If they can do it in Sweden and Canada and other high snow areas, we can do it in Marquette," she said.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 242. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.