MANSFIELD -- Richland County officials hope to know by November if outside funds will be available for a proposed $1.7 million roundabout at the intersection of Cook Road/Illinois Avenue and Mansfield-Lucas Road.
Richland County Engineer Adam Gove said Monday local officials will present in October a roundabout plan to the Ohio Department of Transportation, seeking funds for 90 percent of the work.
"We're pretty hopeful," Gove said. "There is quite a bit of safety money available at this time. One of (Gov. DeWine's) big promises was to increase safety on our roadways. He has made some of those funds available. If we can be one one of the first to get in there, our chances are pretty good."
The proposal would increase safety at one of the county's most dangerous intersections, Gove said. A Richland County Planning Commission study a few years ago identified it as the ninth worst intersection in the county overall and the worst among those under the county's jurisdiction.
Gove said there were 21 crashes at the intersection between 2015-2018, averaging five to six per year. Fifteen of the wrecks resulted in injuries.
He said planners considered a roundabout and a traffic signal system, determining the former was the best and safest way to proceed.
"A roundabout has been proven to reduce injury crashes," Gove said, "because you are taking out those 't-bone' kind of crashes. I am not saying there won't be any crashes because of a roundabout. We are just hoping they are less severe."
Gove is hopeful to see the same results the City of Mansfield achieved when it put a $500,000 roundabout at the intersection of Middle Bellville and Straub roads in 2012.
"The number of accidents was reduced in half in the first three years after it was constructed and the number of injury crashes went to zero," he said. "That's proof of what a roundabout can do.
"In the end, it came down to what is the safest option. Safety was our first priority. That is our highest-crash location, Gove said.
Planning for the roundabout began in 2017 after the planning commission study was completed, according to Gove, who said construction would likely begin in 2022 if the funds are secured.
He said the county would likely apply for an Ohio Public Works Commission grant for the remaining $170,000. If not, the funds would be local dollars.
Gove said increased traffic in the area has led to the need for the roundabout. The Cook Road/Illinois Avenue extension project, including the $6.4 million South Illinois Avenue bridge over Norfolk Southern railroad tracks in 2008, has generated the additional traffic.
"In the late 90s, when they did that extension project, I think they knew this would be a heavily traveled road," said Gove, in his first term as the county engineer. "I don't think Mansfield-Lucas Road was as heavily traveled as it is now.
"I think development has a had a lot to do with it. There is quite a bit of business on Illinois Ave, north of (Madison South Elementary). They are probably using that to get down to (U.S.) Route 13 and I-71," Gove said.
The engineer said he understands some residents are not in favor of a roundabout, which will be the first on a county-operated road. He is hopeful attitudes will change, just as they did after a smaller roundabout was built on Middle Bellville/Straub by the City of Mansfield.
"I understand that because it's new to this area, some people aren't comfortable with it. It does rely on the knowledge people in the roundabout have the right-of-way. There will be an educational piece to this to help people become more familiar with a roundabout and its operation," he said.
Modern roundabouts are "calmer and safer" compared to conventional intersections and have been deemed a "proven safety counter-measure," by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts reduce overall collisions (37 percent), injury collisions (75 percent) and fatalities in collisions (90 percent).