Section: News

Intersection to close in May for roundabout construction

Intersection to close in May for roundabout construction

Construction on the roundabout is estimated to last from May until November. | COURTESY OF KENYON COMMUNICATIONS

On May 28, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will begin construction on a new roundabout at the intersection of state Route (SR) 229 (Newcastle Road) and SR 308 (W Wiggin Street). Construction is slated to continue until Nov. 15. This project will occur in tandem with the construction of a multi-use path that will span from Middle Path down Wiggin Street and across SR 229 to the bridge that leads to the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC). 

According to Vice President for Facilities, Planning and Sustainability Ian Smith P’24 ’27, the decision to build a roundabout at this intersection was prompted by a “lengthy history of bad accidents,” particularly following a tragic accident in 2020, which resulted in the death of a 21-year-old Gambier resident. There were 17 accidents documented at the intersection from 2015-2020.

Gambier’s Village Council proposed a number of options to ODOT to lessen the danger posed by the intersection. Smith explained that although the Village would have preferred a traffic light, the intersection would need to meet two of 10 possible requirements to justify having a traffic signal in order for Ohio taxpayers to fund it. Traffic signals can cost between $250,000 and $500,000, and the Village disregarded this option after they found they could not meet the requirements and would have to finance the traffic lights locally. ODOT proposed the alternative of a roundabout, and the current plan came to fruition. 

The new roundabout will include a large retaining wall and a pedestrian crossing, improving the safety of the intersection for both people and vehicles. The pedestrian crossing will consist of a designated safety island, allowing people to cross only one lane of traffic at a time.

When construction begins, the parts of SR 229 leading up to the intersection will be closed. To inform residents of the road closing and necessary detours, ODOT will place large digital message boards around mid May near the area where the construction will take place. Signage and blockages will be placed close to alternative routes, allowing larger vehicles to make detours before encountering construction, according to Smith. 

The road closures will require some traffic to be routed through the Village, though the majority will be local car and light truck traffic. Both ODOT and the local government will do their best to route heavy trucks out of the Village. Smith explained that most eastbound trucks will likely be diverted to U.S. Route 62 long before reaching Duff Street, but some could potentially go all the way to Duff Street, where they would encounter barricades. 

According to a Friday news bulletin, preliminary work on the roundabout has already started with tree removal. As these trees may serve as homes for the endangered Indiana bat, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources requires construction to “avoid disturbing potential nesting sites for the endangered Indiana bat while the bats are in residence.” The tree clearing is also part of the project to build a multi-use path from Middle Path across SR 229.

ODOT will oversee this construction in tandem with the roundabout construction. “The Village received their grant funding for [the multi-use path] at about the same time ODOT was getting ready to go out to bid on the roundabout project,” Smith said. The state decided to manage the projects together, as they are both state funded and coordination will be improved if the crew efforts are jointly overseen. The new multi-use path will give Gambier residents a protected route to walk all the way from Middle Path to the bridge across the highway. “It’ll be a lot safer for students and faculty and staff who go out to the BFEC and back,” Smith said.

Students will not be able to access the BFEC by traversing SR 229 until after construction has concluded. The best alternative for students hoping to access the area will be to get on the Kokosing Gap Trail by the Lowry Center and use the crossing on SR 229 before where construction will occur. The historic Kenyon sign at the bottom of the hill will be removed by a faculty member and preserved until after construction when it will be returned to its original home.

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