Published April 08. 2013 4:00AM Updated April 08. 2013 11:43PM
Salem - With construction on the town's roundabout now complete, some residents are expressing concern that not all drivers know how to navigate the traffic pattern.
At the March meeting of the Economic Development Commission, some members took the opportunity to complain to their Board of Selectman liaison, Robert Ross, about people who entered the roundabout at high speeds, without yielding right of way or while straddling two lanes.
EDC chairman Frank Sroka said that he's twice seen someone make "scary decisions" in the roundabout, such as turning left into the oncoming traffic. One driver, he said, was "completely adrift."
Despite the confusion displayed by some drivers, town officials said there has only been one accident since the roundabout was installed late last year. It was a fender-bender and no one was injured.
Sroka thinks the town should make the white arrows that direct traffic into the roundabout yellow so that they will be easier to see.
Ross said that the double lanes on one side of the roundabout might be causing some confusion with drivers. Drivers going north on Route 85 or east on Route 82 have the option of two different lanes when entering the roundabout, which Ross said was to provide a quicker entrance and exit for those only going a short distance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that fewer crashes occur in one-way roundabouts than in those with multiple lanes.
There is a possibility of altering the roundabout to make it one lane all the way around, which would also even out the asymmetrical center, said Ross. He said the town is talking with the state Department of Transportation to see if the problem goes away.
First Selectman Kevin Lyden said that there was no plan to change the configuration of the roundabout, which is now considered to be in the substantial completion phase - meaning that only the project's finishing touches still need to be completed.
"The roundabout overall is working quite well," said Lyden. But the DOT is still monitoring its use to see if there will be any need to alter signs or otherwise alter the area.
The roundabout was first approved in 2009, when Ross was first selectman. The rationale for the approximately $3.5 million, federally-funded project was that it would reduce accidents, which were occurring at a high rate at the busy intersection of Routes 85 and 82.
Sixty-two collisions, which resulted in 25 injuries and one death, occurred in the area between 2004 and 2009.
According the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, converting intersections to roundabouts reduces injury-causing crashes by 72 percent and total crashes by 47 percent.