Carmel Celebrates 100th Roundabout

Writer / Jane VanOsdol

It’s not every day that a 100th of anything comes along, but when it does, a celebration is in order. Such was the atmosphere July 17 when Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, along with the city council and American Structurepoint, celebrated the opening of the city’s 100th roundabout in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A crowd gathered at the corner of Range Line Road and Carmel Drive to enjoy the festivities, which included a concert from the Indiana Wind Symphony, pyrotechnics, speeches, prize giveaways, and food vendors from local businesses affected by the construction.

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Nationwide, Carmel is known as the roundabout capital.

“We have more roundabouts than any other community, regardless of size, in the United States,” Brainard stated.

He has long been a fan of roundabouts since he was introduced to the concept as a law student in England. Studies show they are safe, improve traffic flow, and are both environmentally and budget-friendly. Consider the following:

• According to Brainard, since the time roundabouts in Carmel began replacing traditional intersections, accidents with injuries have decreased 78 percent at those intersections. Overall, accidents have decreased 40 percent. Accidents that do occur are generally less serious as roundabouts eliminate head-on and high-speed, right-angle collisions.

• Roundabouts allow for a 30 to 50 percent increase in traffic capacity.

• Cars idle less and less gas is being used, resulting in better fuel economy.

• Roundabout crosswalks help protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

• Landscaping adds an aesthetic appeal and green space to what would otherwise be concrete.

• Roundabouts cost about $125,000 less than signaled intersections. Maintenance costs are also less.

In addition, Brainard feels roundabouts help make a community attractive to business.

“We know that business locates where employees want to go,” he stated.

In addition to factors such as schools, libraries, parks, shopping, culture, trails, cleanliness, safety, and sports opportunities, a good transportation system is also important.

roundabout-9“People don’t want to be stuck in traffic for hours a day,” he said. “A city or country must be able to move goods or people quickly, efficiently and safely, and roundabouts do that.”

Many Hamilton county residents appreciate the roundabouts, and Carmel resident Mike Ruggiero is one of them. However, after witnessing motorist confusion when entering and exiting roundabouts, he said, “people need to get more educated on how to drive through them.”

Growing Pains

While roundabout construction can be painful to businesses and residents, Brainard says measures have been put into place to ease the transition. For example, rather than keeping an intersection open during construction, which extends the length of the project and can cause great financial difficulties to businesses and upset residents, he believes closing the intersection is the best choice. He said this allows construction to be completed in a much shorter timeframe, minimizing the negative financial impact on business owners. Indeed, the 100th roundabout was completed in only 43 days, which was two days ahead of schedule.

In addition, the city adds incentives if the work is finished ahead of schedule and penalties if a project is late, the city makes available marketing expertise to businesses affected bye the closings, and residents can access for a list of all projects, road closings and alternative routes. Finally, when a roundabout is ready to open, the city promotes the opening via radio advertising.

Four more roundabouts are set to open in the near future, and since the city secured a $257 million bond package earlier this year, more roundabouts are on the docket for the next few years.

It’s safe to say that Carmel will continue to improve its infrastructure as it strives to maintain its nationwide reputation as a family friendly city.

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