A roundabout? Township moves forward on Five Points intersection concept
● By Richard Gaw
Following a nearly two-hour-long presentation and discussion with residents on Feb. 7, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to enter the township into a grant exploration period this year, in order to help pay for the proposed installation of an oval-shaped roundabout at the Five Points intersection in the township, beginning in 2021.
Before a packed meeting room at the Kennett Township Building, Derrick Kennedy, project manager with Remington & Vernick Engineers, the township's engineering consultant, said that constructing a roundabout at the five-legged intersection that merges South Union Street, Hillendale Road and Old Kennett Road is the best method of addressing the existing and projected traffic flow at the busy intersection.
“The intersection now is at its capacity in certain movements,” Kennedy said. “Adding left turn lanes helps, but adding the roundabout adds more capacity than left-turn improvements. From a long-term perspective, if we're expecting growth, a roundabout prefers to be the best option.”
Kennedy said that the preliminary cost estimate for the roundabout would be $2.6 million, which would include a $1.3 million construction cost. Pursuing grant opportunities, he said, will begin in March, and be coordinated through PennDOT or the State's Economic Development Office. He said that 2019 would be devoted to determining final designs, and the project, he said, would get underway in 2021 and take less than one year to complete.
“We have an immediate problem that we have to address, [but] it will be more than addressed,” said board chairman Scudder Stevens. “It will be attacked, for lack of a better term, to begin the process, [in order to] have it up and running by 2021.”
The construction of the roundabout, Kennedy said, would be done parcel by parcel, in such a way that each road – or “point” -- would be closed at different times for a period of a few weeks, not all at one time, to better accommodate traffic. Closures would be coordinated with Kennett Square Borough and nearby schools.
“We would close one leg at a time and implement a detour for on leg of the intersection,” Kennedy said.
In spelling out the positives of adding a roundabout at the intersection, Kennedy's presentation said that while traditional intersection concepts like traffic circles, rotaries or mini-traffic circles are all designed to move traffic at higher speeds, roundabouts are designed to slow traffic down, by creating uniform, yield patterns for every vehicle.
“In a typical roundabout system, traffic operates in a counter-clockwise direction around the circle, and one of the key features is that every leg is designed to the same standards,” Kennedy said. “You don't have a main street getting priority, and a side street trying to find a gap.”
Kennedy told the audience that studies show significant reduction in traffic crashes at roundabouts, compared to traditional intersections; and a nearly 100 percent reduction in fatal crashes. They also save the driver time, he said; at traditional intersections, drivers normally experience an average of a 16 -second delay, while at a roundabout, the delay is about five seconds.
During his presentation, Kennedy showed simulations of two traffic patterns. One simulation showed a traditional intersection, where a growing stack of vehicles waited for lights from all directions. The other simulation showed a typical roundabout, where a steady flow of vehicles moved almost continuously, at slow speeds.
A roundabout, Kennedy said, could also meet projected growth in the vicinity of the intersection. In its 70-page traffic impact analysis report of the intersection issued on Feb. 16, 2016, Remington & Vernick wrote that the projected volume of traffic at the intersection will likely increase, largely due to the “build out” of two townhome developments along South Union Street: the Bentley-Plankington development at 912 South Union Street, which includes 40 units, and the Guthrie development, which includes 63 units.
Early concept designs for the project, Kennedy said, do not include pedestrian sidewalks and bicycle lanes, but township Manager Lisa Moore said that during the grant application stage, the township will work with PennDOT to incorporate sidewalks and crosswalks into a revised design.
Referring to the township's Sidewalk Project, board chairman Scudder Stevens said that the township “is deeply committed to sidewalks and sharing the road,” he said. “Bear in mind, if you think it will be bad [to cross a completed roundabout at the Five Points intersection], think about what it's like trying to cross there now. It's very, very dangerous, but it will be better.”
Although the development of a roundabout at the intersection will be considered a Kennett Township project, it is being done in partnership with PennDOT, who owns two of the roads at the intersection. Both the township and Remington & Vernick have met on several occasions with PennDOT, at its Sept. 2017 meeting, PennDOT endorsed the oval-shaped roundabout concept.
Because the township is choosing to take ownership of the project, it considerably accelerates its anticipated timeline. Moore told the audience that if the township chose not to take the reigns on the roundabout, it would have been placed on PennDOT's transportation project to-do list, which she said could take between 10 and 15 years to complete.
In other township news, the board supported an initiative introduced by supervisor Richard Leff that potentially links the township with other area municipalities in a joint effort to explore ways to convert these municipalities into 100 percent renewable energy centers. The goal of the concept, Leff said, is to convert all electricity use into renewable energy by 2035, and to create all renewable energy by 2050.
The initiative is being led by the Chester County Clean Energy Leaders, Leff said, and the idea is to pool resources with the Chester County Planning Commission, in order to draft a plan to reach these goals.
Leff said that the initiative has already received support from Kennett Square Borough, Downingtown Borough, West Chester Borough, Phoenixville Borough, Schuylkill Township , West Goshen Township and Westtown Township.
“As you look at energy usage by counties across Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh lights up, because there's so many people, but if you divide it by how many people are in a certain municipality, Kennett Township lights up,” Leff said. “This would be a way for Kennett Township to determine how we can source our energy usage, and potentially get our electricity from cleaner sources. It's a ways away, but these are aspirational goals.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.