Springfield to decide future of proposed Bechtle roundabout soon

The debate over a controversial $679,000 proposed roundabout at one of Springfield’s busiest intersections may be coming to an end soon.

A decision is expected to be made at the Springfield City Commission meeting on Feb. 16, but it might not require a vote from commissioners, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said. He’s looking further into that process today.

Residents spoke out against the project at North Bechtle Avenue and St. Paris Connector at the city commission meeting Tuesday night. Opponents believe the project will cause traffic problems, confusion for drivers and possible accidents, while supporters have said it will alleviate traffic congestion and reduce collisions.

“The traffic light is working fine,” Springfield resident Bradley Carey said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

The project would be the first true roundabout in Springfield. It’s being developed to reduce injury and fatal traffic accidents and improve traffic flow and air quality, according to the city. During a three-year period, there have been seven crashes — including one fatality and one injury — at the Bechtle Avenue intersection.

The roundabout is expected to reduce crashes by 71 percent and fatalities by 87 percent, according to a city fact sheet.

More than 1,125 signatures were collected for a petition to stop the roundabout project and were delivered to city commissioners last month.

The city and Springfield Clark County Transportation Coordinating Committee first applied for state funding for the Bechtle roundabout in 2011, but it was rejected because of a lack of crashes at the intersection. A stop sign was initially placed there until a temporary traffic signal was installed in 2011 to reduce congestion.

The Ohio Department of Transportation approved the project last year and will be paid for through federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Funds because it will reduce congestion, delays and the risk of crashes, according to officials. The project is at no cost to the city. If rejected, the money can only be used for other eligible projects, but cannot be used to pave neighborhood streets.

If rejected locally, the developer of the shopping center north of Walmart will have to pay for the installation of a permanent traffic signal. He’s already posted a $100,000 bond for the signal.

Earlier this year, city commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the $187,000 engineering contract to begin design work and a feasibility study on the traffic circle. Commissioner Kevin O’Neill voted against the contract.

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