May 25, 2018
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Orono roundabout aims to reduce crashes

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Construction is expected to start soon on a single-lane roundabout designed to reduce collisions at the busy intersection of Stillwater and Forest avenues, a Maine Department of Transportation said Friday.

“It should be done by Aug. 27,” Project Manager Paul MacDonald said. “It’s got about a million dollar price tag.” MacDonald said that Bangor-based Sargent Corp. has been awarded the construction contract.

“They’ve been out there doing some clearing and utility work and as soon as the weather allows them to, they’ll start their main construction,” he said.

According to MacDonald, the roundabout — a road feature designed to keep traffic moving while minimizing the risk of motor vehicle collisions — was requested by the town of Orono as a way to eliminate what state transportation officials have deemed a “high-crash location.”

The DOT rates intersections by the number of accidents that occur in a three-year period. Any more than eight crashes leads to a “high-crash location” designation. The actual number of crashes at the intersection was not immediately available.

MacDonald said the concept being applied in Orono is similar to that being used in Blue Hill.

Used frequently in Europe, roundabouts — sometimes called minirotaries — are becoming more popular in Maine. Bangor, Calais and Caribou are some of the communities in which they have been built.

Unlike a true rotary, which can involve several lanes of traffic entering and exiting and traveling around the circle, roundabouts have only one lane.

Ted Talbot, the DOT’s spokesman said last month that a growing number of municipalities are exploring roundabouts for unsafe intersections because they are designed specifically for safety. Traffic signals are an effort to control traffic, he said, but don’t necessarily reduce the risk of accidents.

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