New roundabout coming to US-131 in Grand Traverse County

    GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- A new roundabout is in the works for US-131 in Grand Traverse County.

    The Michigan Department of Transportation says the project at the intersection of US-131 and M-189 is to decrease the number of high speed crashes.

    Right now, traffic moves along US-131 at 55 miles per hour, and those approaching the highway from either M-189 or State Street near Fife Lake have to stop.

    "If you look at the crashes occurring out there now, it is high speed," says Traverse City TSC manager Rick Liptak. "People are on 131 going 55 plus miles an hour, and somebody trying to get across or make a turn, that's what we're trying to eliminate."

    Since 2007, MDOT shows at least 79 reported crashes at the intersection of US-131 and M-189.

    In July 2016, a crash at the intersection claimed the lives of two 17-year-old girls, Haley Stevens and Aubrey Fisher.

    From strictly a state safety standpoint, Liptak says a roundabout is the best safety improvement that can be made to the US-131 intersection.

    The new, single-lane roundabout will be similar to the one installed in Mesick about four years ago, a project Liptak says has proven to be successful.

    "For the three years prior to the roundabout going in, we had a series of regular fatalities, as well as serious crashes. In the three years after the roundabout was in, the number of crashes dropped down to almost none," said the TSC manager. "No fatalities."

    Roundabouts are designed to prevent head-on crashes and t-bone crashes by only allowing a right turn and reducing the speed limit.

    Some of the concerns people have with implementing the new roundabout is that visitors may not know how to maneuver them, and it will slow down highway traffic.

    Amanda Burkholder is familiar with driving semi-trucks and lives near the intersection of US-131 and M-139. She says she understands the idea of slowing down vehicles, but believes slowing down traffic will cause an issue.

    "I see where they're [MDOT] is coming from, but at the same time it's a major highway for semis which have issues with slowing down that much for roundabouts."

    Burkholder also mentioned how roundabouts could make it more difficult for snow plows, but Liptak says it's actually easier for snow plows to get around.

    "At least for the Wexford County road commission, it's shown snow plows can clear roundabouts easier because they get in, get around, and get out, compared to having to stop and turn around to clean up the intersections."

    During construction, the Beacon and Bridge Market gas station will have at least one of it's driveways closed off along US-131, but it will remain open.

    We're told there will also be a temporary road detouring traffic along US-131 during construction.

    It's also important to note, MDOT says roundabouts are designed to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.

    People walking across have a half-way point between roads for more safety, and bicyclists are allowed to travel the same as motor vehicles, but are encouraged to stay towards the center of the lanes.

    If you or someone you know is unsure about how to maneuver a roundabout, here is a list of helpful steps from MDOT:

    • Step 1: Slow down as you approach the roundabout.
    • Step 2: Use the guides and signs to decide which lane you need.
    • Step 3: Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross.
    • Step 4: Look to the left and yield to any vehicles using the roundabout.
    • Step 5: Once there is an adequate gap in traffic, enter the roundabout. Never stop or change lanes once in the roundabout.
    • Step 6: Slow down, look for pedestrians and bicyclists, and use a signal before exiting the roundabout.

    If you want more information about the benefits of roundabouts, or how to use them as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or driver, you can watch this informational YOUTUBE VIDEO posted by MDOT.

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