By Jim Newell
Love it or hate it, the Miller/Flint/Orion roundabout is open and moving traffic through while reducing delays.
And that’s what officials from the road commission, Orion Township, the Village of Lake Orion and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said was the purpose of the roundabout during an official ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 21.
During peak hours, vehicles had been stacked up to 8-10 cars waiting to get through the intersection. The intersection carries about 7,000 vehicles daily, according to the road commission.
Road Commission Chairman Eric Wilson acknowledged that residents had some concerns initially about the roundabout because of the inconvenience and lack of knowledge about how to use a roundabout.
“But you look at traffic now and what they’re doing, they’re pretty comfortable, they’re flowing right through this thing,” Wilson said. “That is why we do this, to move the traffic safely through.”
The $570,000 project began Sept. 10 and finished Nov. 12, slightly longer than originally anticipated, due to unanticipated utility work and weather. Commerce Construction and Landscape of Milford was the contractor for the project.
Village Council President Ken Van Portfliet and Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett said they appreciated the road commission’s work in bringing the roundabout to the area.
“For me, this represents the continuation of the progress in our community, all the way from private development, the current infrastructure projects we’ve got going on, to safety and welfare,” said Van Portfliet.
Deputy Trevor Sanford is a part of the OCSO Crash Investigation Unit and sees firsthand the severity of side impact collisions.
“Roundabouts keep traffic flowing and they slow everything down. A lot of our crashes involve a perpendicular or a ‘T-bone’ collision. And the forces involved between the two vehicles is generally higher,” Sanford said. “What roundabouts do is take that from a perpendicular collision to more of an angle collision…so that the vehicles tend to glance off each other. That’s why you see the drops in injuries, and the 90 percent drops in fatalities.”
The roundabout is on the border of the village and the township and the speed limit is 15 miles per hour.
“A lot of it has to do with the speed. Being that this is a 15 mph roundabout, crashes at 15 mph, there’s not a lot of energy created between the two vehicles,” Sanford said. “There is an adapting period (for drivers). But cars can be fixed. People can too, to an extent, but it’s a lot easier to fix cars than it is people. But standing here, you can see that the traffic is flowing just fine. As long as people have a cool head, they’ll work through it. Just yield to the person on the right and it will serve its purpose.”
Lt. Dan Toth, commander of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Orion Twp. Substation, said deputies patrolled the construction area with the goal of keeping drivers safe.
Residents who live on Mariday Street and Schorn Drive had complained about the increased traffic and vehicles speeding down those roads, which were not part of the official detour route. Motorists then complained, mostly online in the Lake Orion Chat Room, that they were being ticketed for driving down public roads that were not on the detour route.
“Our goal was to make the construction zone safe. I can count on one hand how many tickets we actually wrote in the construction zone. The ones that we did write were for speed or reckless driving, people driving on the sidewalks,” Toth said.
Sheriff’s deputies did issue warnings to motorists who did not abide by the official detour routes.
“But we did give out a couple hundred warnings. We did stop motorists and we gave them the detour handout and that was our purpose, to raise their awareness and educate. It was not an enforcement issue,” Toth said. “Kind of like our circular intersection here – it was getting everyone to work together and go in the same direction.”
For more information about the project, including tips on how to navigate a roundabout, visit the RCOC Website, www.rcocweb.org.