The Urbana City Council selected R.B. Jergens Contractors Inc., of Vandalia, to perform upgrades to Urbana’s Monument Square roundabout in the amount of $1,808,913.09 at a meeting earlier this month. According to Community Development Manager Doug Crabill, construction may begin as soon as mid-April.
The public can learn about the project during an open house at the city building prior to the start of construction, Crabill said, adding there will be frequent updates on the city’s website. The date for the open house has not been announced yet.
Crabill said that downtown business owners and residents impacted by the work were informed of the construction schedule in a mailer sent out several weeks ago. The sidewalk throughout the downtown area will remain accessible during the five maintenance and traffic phases, though traffic will be re-directed as each leg of the central traffic circle closes one at a time.
“There’s going to be five maintenance and traffic phases,” said city Engineer Tyler Bumbalough. “The first phase will address the improvements in the center of the square. The next four phases will have leg closures, so the south leg might be closed at one time with some of the parking area on one side or the other, then they’ll move on to the next leg and do one side of the parking or the other. Those blocks will be closed, except to pedestrians, and they’re going to try to maintain traffic to the parking lots and alleys with just a narrow strip to get to those.
“We’re not closing down downtown in the sense that we’re closing businesses,” he added. “We’re keeping businesses open. They’ll have pedestrian access to them, though they won’t have parking necessarily when that leg is closed. The contractor must maintain access to the storefronts. If the concrete has to be replaced in front of the entry then the contractor will work with the store owner for any alternatives.”
The U.S. 36/U.S. 68 intersection upgrade is being funded by an Ohio Department of Transportation Highway Safety Grant and an ODOT Small Cities Grant and will occur at the same time as a mass water main and service replacement funded by an Ohio Public Works Commission zero percent interest loan. Crabill said that the water project will not disrupt water service for any significant length of time.
According to Bumbalough, an initial study was performed shortly after the roundabout was installed in September 2009. The study noted that the right-hand turn bypass lanes were misaligned. Some local officials also wanted the roundabout to be higher functioning for pedestrian walk-ability, safety and slowing traffic speeds within the roundabout.
“We had known that this was a temporary type roundabout when we initially put it in in 2009,” said Bumbalough. “We took down the traffic signals and installed paint within the square, but that’s not what a modern roundabout is. A modern roundabout includes features such as islands and better crosswalk designations to help deter traffic, slow it down, and traffic calming techniques that really help geometrically slow the traveling public down.”
A truck apron will be installed to prevent drivers from unknowingly turning into the wrong lane while going through the circle. Bumbalough said crash numbers within the roundabout have steadily decreased since its installation as people have gotten used to it.
“Roundabouts decrease the severity of accidents, and they also cut down on the number of conflict points,” he said. “I think there’s only eight conflict points in a single lane roundabout. In (a non-roundabout) intersection I think there’s over 20 conflict points where you could have a series of different kinds of accidents. There’s no real opportunity for T-bone crashes as much as there are for just sideswipes or rear-ends in a roundabout, so we wanted to decrease severity of accidents.”
In advance of construction there will be notice of closure signs posted two weeks prior to construction. Both truck detours and internal detours within the city will be posted during construction. At the request of the city’s fire and police divisions, emergency personnel will be able to get through the closed legs.
Parking will be accessible in at least two of Monument Square’s four parking areas during all phases of construction. Bumbalough said the Monument Square roundabout takes over 25,000 vehicles a day, which is why the city is phasing the project to create the least disturbance.
The contractor must have everything within the pavement limits complete by Aug. 31, after which ODOT will execute an existing contract to pave the square and one block in each direction from the square: Court, Market, Walnut and Locust streets.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304