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Palm Coast Friday, Aug. 10, 2018 3 months ago

FDOT presents plan for U.S. 1/Matanzas Woods Parkway roundabout

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Local officials think a roundabout could work, but some residents are wary.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

A Florida Department of Transportation proposal to add a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Matanzas Woods Parkway  is drawing criticism from some locals, but officials believe it will be safer than adding a traffic light at the unsignalized intersection. 

"Here, on U.S. 1, a roundabout, it makes it safer."

— STEVE OLSON, Florida Department of Transportation spokesman

"A roundabout, a traffic signal, a stop sign — they all work well in certain situations," FDOT spokesman Steve Olson said during a public information meeting about the roundabout held by FDOT at the Palm Coast Community Center the evening of Aug. 9. "Here, on U.S. 1, a roundabout, it makes it safer," he added.

More than 70 people, including members of the Flagler County Commission, Palm Coast City Council and Flagler County School Board, attended the two-hour meeting, where FDOT representatives spoke with attendees one-on-one or in small groups, using oversized graphics of the proposed roundabout to show how traffic would move — smoothly, they said — through the traffic circle. 

"When speeds are relatively high ... it reduces the chance of severe crashes occurring," eliminating the chance for dangerous T-bone crashes, Olson said. 

Some residents who watched an FDOT video presentation about the proposal weren't convinced.

A rendering of the proposed roundabout, shown in an FDOT presentation. (Image courtesy of the FDOT)

JoAnn O'Leary, who lives in the L-Section and uses that stretch of road regularly, didn't like the plan.

"I am not impressed with this at all," she said. "If they really wanted safety they'd put a light in now. [The roundabout] is too costly. They could put a light in in a month."

Construction is expected to cost $2.2 million and begin in summer 2019. 

FEWER CRASHES

The Florida Department of Transportation has increasingly been pushing for roundabouts, which FDOT officials say are often safer than signalized four-way intersections.

"I am not impressed with this at all," she said. "If they really wanted safety they'd put a light in now. [The roundabout] is too costly. They could put a light in in a month."

— JOANN O'LEARY, Palm Coast residnet

A four-way intersection has 32 potential vehicle conflict points and 16 crossing points, according to an FDOT video presentation that played on a loop in one corner of the Community Center hall during the meeting. (See the associated PowerPoint presentation here.)

A roundabout, on the other hand, only has eight conflict points and no crossing points. When crashes do happen, they tend to be side-to-side or front-to-rear fender benders.

"Expect 33% reduction in crashes per year. ... Expect 67% reduction in injury crashes per year," the video presentation stated.

A roundabout, according to the presentation, "accommodates vehicles of all sizes."

Vincent Vigilante, a Palm Coast resident, felt like the roundabout was a done deal regardless of the meeting and presentation

"I think it's gonna happen, no matter what we say," Vigilante said. "I'm just concerned about somebody coming down 70 mph, 2 in the morning, and not knowing it's there."

Olson said concerns raised during such meetings can influence the decision-making process. Traffic, he said, will be required to slow down to about 25 mph approaching the roundabout.

OFFICIALS BACK PLAN

County Commissioner David Sullivan had voiced some concern in March about FDOT's plans to put a roundabout in another location — at U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway — noting that many locals aren't familiar with how to use roundabouts. 

But at the Matanzas intersection, "I think, actually, in this case it's the right thing to do," he said during the Aug. 9 meeting. 'This roundabout isn't going to cause many problems."

County Commissioner Donald O'Brien agreed. 

"I accept the data that FDOT has given on the positive effects of the roundabout," he said. "I think it can work in this particular situation."

O'Brien had been through a roundabout that FDOT had placed on State Road 44 in Deland. It had generated plenty of opposition before construction but flowed well once it was built. 

"They work as long as you're trained and know how to use them," O'Brien said. "I don't see why they wouldn't work here."

"I think it will be a good thing when people get used to it. ... I do have concerns about the speed of people heading south."

— BOB CUFF, Palm Coast city councilman

Palm Coast City Councilman Bob Cuff said he wished there was another roundabout like the Deland one closer to Palm Coast, so that more residents would have a chance to get used to the traffic pattern.

"I think it will be a good thing when people get used to it," he said. "I do have concerns about the speed of people heading south."

He said he'd been approached by a handful of locals after a recent City Council meeting, and they'd expressed concerns about the proposed roundabout. 

"There's definitely a lot of unease in the public," he said. 

Palm Coast City Councilman Vincent Lyon acknowledged that roundabouts can require some practice. 

"It's new and it will take getting used to, but once we're used to it we'll wonder why we didn't do it in the first place," Lyon said. "I think the right choice is to go where the science leads us, and this is a technology that's been studied extensively."

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