ELKTON — State Highway Administration officials told Cecil County Council Tuesday they are ready to proceed on three of six proposed roundabouts that drew public scrutiny last month.
“We’ve decided we’ll proceed with Blue Ball Road, Appleton Road and Muddy Lane roundabouts,” Greg Holsey, SHA district 2 engineer, told the council.
“We’re going to hold off on the roundabouts proposed along Route 273 and intersections with Route 213 and Route 272 and one at Routes 279 and Blue Ball Road,” Holsey said.
Those three intersections are already equipped with functioning traffic signals.
The state heard questions and concerns from the public and council members about the three roundabouts that already have functioning traffic lights at a November public meeting.
Funds have already been allocated for design of all six roundabouts, but Holsey said Tuesday they will go ahead and ask for construction funding for Appleton, Muddy Lane and Blue Ball at Route 273, but not ask for construction funding for the remaining three proposals at this time.
“We are open to meeting with Cecil County at any time,” Holsey said.
SHA’s district office has updated the county’s public works staff on these projects over the past several years, Hosley said Tuesday.
“These roundabouts are not new,” he said.
County Council President Robert Hodge reminded them that the council has only met with them once a year.
“We think once a year is not enough,” Hodge said.
The council members agreed they wanted to have better communication and more say-so in state planning highway projects, since they may have different priorities than the state.
“Most of us agree roundabouts are needed at Blue Ball Road and Appleton Road intersections with Route 273, and even Muddy Lane, but can you explain to us why you think it’s necessary to do these other roundabouts that already have signals?” Hodge asked SHA officials.
“We have a safety issue at these intersections and we feel responsible,” Holsey said.
He explained the funding for these projects comes from the state’s Safety Improvement Program. “These roundabouts were awarded funding based on other safety projects competing statewide,” Holsey said. All the projects are ranked based on need and safety impact, he explained.
“The 18-mile Route 273 corridor has twice as many accidents as other similar corridors in Maryland,” Holsey said.
Assistant Traffic Engineer Jeffery Wentz said studies show that roundabouts have a calming effect on traffic and would reduce traffic accidents.
SHA did a similar project near Bel Air, placing roundabouts at half-mile intervals, whereas the Route 273 corridor plan would be at three and four-mile intervals.
“The Bel Air project resulted in a 68 percent reduction in traffic accidents and a 100 percent reduction in fatalities,” Wentz said.
He estimated the Route 273 corridor would result in 20 percent reduction of crashes.
“I’m concerned about congestion at the Fair Hill traffic light if it’s replaced with a roundabout,” Councilwoman Diana Broomell said. “I thought we would have had more say in where this money is being spent.”
The county has consistently prioritized highway improvement projects at major intersections along the Route 40 corridor for the last several years. County officials were dismayed to find out the state is proposing to spend as much as $15 million on six roundabouts that weren’t at the top of the county’s list.
Holsey explained that multi-million-dollar capital highway improvements projects, such as the intersections along Route 40 at Routes 213, 272 and 222 come out of a different funding source and wouldn’t qualify for the state’s Safety Improvement Program.
“We are aware of your concerns and are taking a hard look at other areas along Jacob Tome Highway and Route 40,” Holsey said.