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MARQUETTE - On Tuesday, Marquette residents got their first detailed look at the Michigan Department of Transportation's roundabout project at the intersection of Front Street and U.S. 41.
Officials from MDOT and DLZ Michigan, an engineering firm that specializes in roundabouts, outlined what the roundabout will look like, how it will work and answered questions from concerned residents.
Andy Sikkema, manager of MDOT's Transportation Service Center in Ishpeming, discusses the roundabout project at the intersection of Front Street and U.S. 41, slated for 2010. (Journal photo by Christopher Diem)
Wes Butch of DLZ said the layout of the current intersection is dangerous and causes significant traffic delays. He said it would only get worse if left alone.
"We looked at a traffic growth that's going to be happening here over the next 20 years and when you look at that traffic growth, you're going to see a lot more backups than what's there right now," Butch said.
Butch said an intersection study in 2007 suggested either a traffic signal with lots of turning lanes or a roundabout.
Butch said a roundabout is cheaper, provides a better traffic flow, is safer and it will look nicer than a traffic signal.
Several residents were concerned about truck traffic and plowing in the winter.
Butch said the roundabout will be designed wide enough to handle semi trucks and showed videos of semis negotiating roundabouts the same size or smaller than the one planned in Marquette.
"Definitely, (semis) can get through the roundabout we've designed here," he said.
To address issues of snow removal, Butch talked to officials in Avon, Colo., which has several roundabouts and gets an average of more than 300 inches of snow a year.
"We talked to the town engineer ... and he told us snow removal is not a major issue, that they had had very few problems," he said.
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 U.S. 41 West and from U.S. 41 West to U.S. 41 South/M-28, will remain in place. There will be yield signs before the entrances to the roundabout and the posted speed limit will be about 25 mph.
Construction on the $1.1 million project will start in the spring of 2010, Butch said, and last about three to four months. During the initial phase of construction, the U.S. 41 corridor will be restricted to one lane of traffic in each direction and access to Front Street from U.S. 41 will be cut off.
Andy Sikkema, manager of MDOT's Transportation Service Center in Ishpeming, said traffic from the city trying to drive south toward Harvey would be detoured by way of Fourth Street to Fisher Street to Grove Street to reach U.S. 41.
Butch said roundabouts are becoming more popular in Michigan. In 2001, he said there were only about five constructed in Michigan. By last year there were about 40.
The presentation was well received by residents and some of them even applauded once it concluded.
"It seemed like people had a good open mind about this," Butch said. "It seemed like once they understood what we're talking about here they were very supportive."