A design change along with weather delays have pushed the completion of Salem’s roundabout at the bypass to late August, according to Natalie Garrett, INDOT Public Relations Director, Southeast District.
Construction was halted for over a week recently while design changes were made.
Garrett said design changes were made to the splitter islands on each approach leg of the roundabout to make them mountable.
“As of now, the completion date has been moved to late August,” she said.
Garrett said “mountable” means that the elevation of the curb is lowered so the back wheels of trucks and other large vehicles can travel over the curb if needed.
The interior island was already designed to be mountable, she said.
Garrett talked about the project in mid-May on WSLM’s Coffee Club.
She said the bypass will remain closed until the project is completed and SR60 will close entirely for work on the single-lane structure in June.
“The entire intersection will close,” she said. “That will be about a month. Sometime in June. We will share the detour route and get people where they need to go.”
Initially, the public has been vocal about the roundabout but Garrett said INDOT was in hopes that the public embraces the project.
“We’ve experienced (opposition) a lot here in southern Indiana,” said Garrett. “It’s a newer thing. We hope that once we get this thing built, people can adjust to it a little better. A lot of people compare it to the one in Jeffersonville, but this one is a lot simpler — a single-lane roundabout. Once they get a chance to try it out, their opinions will change.”
She said the main goal was to reduce serious accidents.
“Our goal is to improve safety and reduce crashes. We’re not saying it will eliminate all crashes, but it should eliminate the severe crashes,” said Garrett.
She said roundabouts are designed with large trucks and agriculture in mind.
“We’ve run multiple models and have multiple engineers to work on this. The way they’re designed, as vehicles are approaching, they are designed in a way to make people slow down. Whether you’re in a passenger vehicle or a large truck. If you’re in a large truck, you’ll be slowing down as you enter. There will be a truck apron on the center island….which is mountable,” she said.
She said roundabouts eliminate possible crash points in an intersection.
“We’ve tried a number of other improvements,” said Garrett. “Advanced warning signs, rumble strips, oversized stop signs, adding lights to those stopsigns — some of those worked better than others. We were trying some lower-cost things before we came in and completely rebuilt the intersection.”
She said a stoplight was not considered because it would cause people to stop suddenly and could lead to more rear-end crashes.
“The roundabout just seemed the best option,” she said. “People are a little apprehensive or nervous. But we think that it will work well. Once they drive through it and get used to it.”
Garrett pointed out that recently roundabouts have been constructed in North Vernon and Madison, which will be similar to the ones in Salem.
Roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
“People don’t like change, but I hope they will see the benefits down the road,” said Garrett. “Our goal is to improve safety and reduce crashes.”