Roundabout aims to ease traffic congestion at busy intersection

If you head downstate you're sure to run into a few but here in northern Michigan, there aren't many "roundabouts" and the news that one is being put in at such a busy intersection in Mesick is getting mixed reviews.

Chances are you've driven through the M-115 and M-37 intersection in Mesick, a busy corner that will soon be undergoing a major and controversial change. There have been many accidents at the corner and that's why the Michigan Department of Transportation is holding a community meeting Wednesday to talk about how they plan to make it safer, with a roundabout.

Mesick Resident Jean Burton says, "This is one of the most dangerous corners in the state of Michigan, I used to be a truck driver, I've driven all over the country and this is one of the worst in the country, that I can see"

M-115 sees an average daily traffic of nearly 9,500 cars and M-37 sees about 4,500, many of which meet at this corner in Mesick.

MDOT officials say that's not a huge volume of traffic but in the past three years, there's been more than 17 accidents and several deaths at the intersection. They say that's an alarming number and what's prompted them to brainstorm ways to make this area safer. After 3 years of research, officials say all of their data pointed to a roundabout, a circular intersection designed to handle a high volume of traffic, including trucks and large emergency vehicles.

But not everyone likes the idea. Mistie Gasper works at Ellen's Corners, which is located right on this intersection, she says, "This corner is a pain in the butt, there is quite a lot of accidents. People don't stop like their supposed to. I think a stop light would be more economical and a better idea."

MDOT considered that option and when comparing a roundabout to a stop light or stop sign, they say the numbers speak for themselves. According to studies a roundabout reduces overall crashes by 40%, injury crashes by 80% and limits serious injury/ fatality crashes by 90%.

So how does it work? With a roundabout, drivers must yield to vehicles already in the roundabout before entering.

Others think the roundabout sounds like a solid plan and is worth the nearly one million dollars it's going to cost to construct it.

Owner of Ellen's Corners Jeff Ellens says, "I actually think the roundabout will be a good thin it's very difficult for us to get used to that and it might be hard at first but I think its going to slow everyone down where, and it should be good. "

MDOT officials say construction on the roundabout is set to begin in 2013 just after Labor Day. They will be holding a community meeting for the public on Wednesday at 4:00pm at Mesick High School.