The Carmel City Council is up for another election and it’s time to debate the issues that face the city. One topic that everyone seems to have thoughts on is the abundance of roundabouts in the city. In an election forum and phone interviews, council candidates have shared their thoughts.
For the last three and half years, I’ve been seeking input on a Gray Road roundabout and frankly I haven’t had to look very hard. Residents recognize and appreciate the improved traffic flow and the enhanced safety of those intersections. And also the aesthetics that roundabouts bring to an intersection with enhanced landscaping versus a light. My residents in the Northeast District very much want roundabouts. And I think now that everyone understands the benefit of roundabout, people want them at every intersection with a traffic light in Carmel.
I’m glad you brought up the issue of roundabouts because east of Keystone we haven’t seen a new roundabout in over a decade. So we would like some additional roundabouts. Sometimes roundabouts works and sometimes they don’t work as well. We have a roundabout, or I call it a figure eight, at 136 that needs some major enhancements. I think it’s important to plan things out and not be hasty.
I lived here before we had the roundabouts at Main Street and Spring Mill and further north at 136th and Spring Mill and even if we have an increased volume of traffic, the traffic at least moves. Traffic would back up when we had four-way stops, so overall I like roundabouts but I’m not familiar with any traffic studies on Gray Road to see whether it’s deemed a necessity. I would like to see some solution to the traffic issues on 96th and Keystone. I’ve been caught up on the standstill there. I don’t feel strongly one way or another about a roundabout there, but I would consider it.
I’m a fan of roundabouts. I think they’re very efficient. I have lived at two ends of Gray Road and would welcome a roundabout there. I think the question is what kind of input we would seek when considering roundabouts and I think that’s an important question. I know there was concern about a roundabout at, for example, Range Line Road and Carmel Drive. If I were to be on the city council, I would want to meet with the businesses in that area. I think that’s something I hear more and more. I want to make sure we don’t adversely affect anyone around a roundabout.
Everybody likes roundabouts. And we know the ones that we like more than the others. The ones that we don’t like quite so much are the ones where you have to veer into them and those are the ones that automatically slow you down. And of course there are various sizes. I have the south end of Gray Road and we have some roundabouts in the works. You present what you want to do and you show people what is planned and you get their buy-in.
Roundabouts should be used where they’re needed for safety reasons. We can’t afford to have them everywhere, but they need to be on places where there’s a hazard of some sort or if engineering does a study that shows it needs to be done. Now, you have a stop sign at first and then as traffic goes up then go to a roundabout and then you go to a signal. So there’s standards that are used to determine when you have a roundabout or not. And that’s really an engineering question. But as far as Gray Road, I used to live on Gray Road and if the traffic count is there or there’s a safety reason, then there would be a reason to do that. But they are quite expensive. So we don’t have a bottomless pit bank account so we have to have criteria. Safety would be number one.
I’m big fan of the roundabouts. I’m fan as a user and as a potential city councilor just because of the efficiency that roundabouts provide. It limits the idling of the traffic and limits the severity of accidents. The safety has been proven. Bringing some roundabouts to the eastside makes sense. Being on the Westside, I am almost never involved in a four-way stop or the stop light. I’ve seen how they work so I’d be in favor of them in other parts of the city.
Roundabouts are, ‘You like them or you don’t.’ It depends how you are. They are very efficient for low to medium volume traffic, but poorly inefficient in high volume traffic. There are areas of the country that had them and removed them. They are constantly evolving in terms of the mechanics of them, which is a good thing. There’s a point where you can have too many roundabouts just as there’s a point where you can have too many lights.
I read a report recently that Hamilton County in the coming decade is going to double. So we need to plan now for those needs. People pass through Carmel and they are all going to be carrying more and more traffic. I found in my experience that roundabouts are the most efficient way. Sometimes we forget how bad traffic was before. I can remember on Keystone, backing up at 116th almost on a daily basis. Now we have to wait three or four minutes but we used to have to wait twenty minutes.
I totally agree that roundabouts certainly would be better than having those long stops at stop signs. I do think we need to be careful about how they are engineered and where they are placed. The roundabouts will meet traffic needs at certain times of the day but at rush hour sometimes their placement can be troublesome. They back up. If you’ve been through a roundabout that’s backed up during rush hour, you’ll see them back up onto an adjacent road.
Kevin “Woody” Rider
People fear what they don’t know so we should always ask for input. The more you inform people you get an automatic buy-in. We’ve continued to evolve. Some of our early roundabouts were too small. We’ve added dedicated turn lanes. You make them better as you go because you learn more. It’s important to meet with the businesses in the area. We did that with Keystone. With roundabouts, one of the greatest advantages is the safety. You don’t get head-on collisions or T-boned, you get grazed. It’s safer.
I want people to imagine: We have almost ninety roundabouts in the city. Think of where we would be from a traffic standpoint if we didn’t have those roundabouts. If we had stop lights at all those intersections. We would be in really, really bad shape. Also, I just wanted everyone to know that the city didn’t design the roundabouts on U.S. 31. I didn’t have to go far to get some input in regards to 126th and Gray Road. My wife who is now retired is now going to the Monon Center in the morning and she said, ‘We’ve got to get a roundabout there.’