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Salem - Construction work on the new roundabout at Salem Four Corners remains on schedule and workers intend to remove the intersection's traffic signal within the next two weeks as the roundabout's circular traffic pattern takes effect.
The $3.5 million project, which will be paid for mostly with federal funds, has spent years in the planning stages and is designed to promote safety at a heavily traveled intersection that connects Routes 85 and 82.
The roundabout will force traffic to slow considerably in an area where several serious accidents and at least one fatality have occurred. The bulk of the project is slated to be completed by November, and additional landscaping will be done in the spring of next year, according to First Selectman Kevin Lyden.
Supervising Engineer Eileen Ego, who works with the state Department of Transportation, said last week the roundabout will take shape starting today, and the traffic signal is scheduled to be removed Aug. 15 if weather permits. At that point, several cones, drums and signage will be placed at the intersection to give motorists guidance for the new traffic pattern.
"One of the biggest complaints we get from people is that they don't understand how they're supposed to drive," Ego said. "The roundabout is designed to make traffic feel constricted. The idea is to slow traffic down and to get it into a single line going around and disperse from there."
Ego said some passing motorists have complained about the construction work, which required roads in the area to be stripped down to gravel and dirt and has created occasional dust clouds. She said stripping the roads was a necessity for the project and that new paving is scheduled to begin Aug. 13. Workers have spent this week working on storm drains.
Kelly Andrade, the owner of the Dunkin' Donuts at the Four Corners, said his business has been uninterrupted by the construction. He said he's been pleased with the quality of the work and the speed with which contractors from Tilcon Connecticut and the state are working.
"The fact that they opened up that area and they're going to dress it up - it's good for all business owners in the end," Andrade said in reference to the removal of the white house on the southwest corner of the intersection. "At the end of the day it will be a benefit for everybody."
Gale Bergeson, who works at the deli counter at Salem Prime Cuts, said Thursday that some patrons who have visited the popular meat and grinder shop at Salem Four Corners have complained about the ongoing construction and the traffic interruptions.
She said it's been tough on cars and there are many bumps in the roads, but ultimately she said the roundabout's addition will be a help.
"The intersection has always been a dangerous place with a lot of accidents," said Bergeson, who said she has lived in the town for more than 25 years. "After everything is said and done, it will make the area look better. When people can get used to it, it can keep the traffic going better."
The roundabout will have a truck apron, which is designed for trucks that need to make wide turns. The project will also include crosswalks for pedestrians, and the state said that bicyclists would be able to enter the roundabout the same way automobiles do because of the lowered speeds.
Lyden said he'll continue to call the historical center of town Salem Four Corners despite its new circular pattern. He said most residents also see the need for the improvements in a corridor that many commuting between New London and Hartford use frequently.
"I've had very few complaints," Lyden said. "Most people are used to the fact that it's coming. The townspeople have been very patient."