Residents defeat roundabout

FLINT TWP. — Residents opposed to placing a traffic roundabout at Dye Road and Court Street packed a public hearing Monday night at the township hall.

The public hearing concerned a proposal from the Genesee County Road Commission to install a roundabout to improve safety at the crash-prone intersection.

Road commission representatives presented a summary of plans aimed at summer construction with 90 percent of the $289,000 cost paid for by a federal safety grant.

After listening to residents objections and voicing concerns of their own, the township board voted 6 to 1 against the proposal. Township Supervisor Karyn Miller cast the only vote in favor. She noted that the township’s road advisory committee had unanimously voted in favor of the roundabout.

About 14 residents spoke against the proposal arguing that the intersection was too small, the traffic circle would be dangerous to maneuver on icy roads in winter and that other dangerous intersections seemed better candidates for a roundabout.

They also questioned the effectiveness of proposed public education on using roundabouts and doubted that a roundabout is better than a traffic light.

Road commission representatives said that Dye and Court was chosen because a fatal accident there in 2010 made it eligible for a federal safety grant.

Joseph George who has lived at that corner for many years and could not remember a fatal accident pressed for details which he could not find in extensive research.

In response, Police Chief George Sippert recounted details an accident on March 9, 2010 in which an elderly man with medical issues ran the stop sign and t-boned a pick-up truck. The elderly man was transported to the hospital where he died three days later as a result of injuries the medical examiner attributed to the accident.

Hearing the details of the fatality caused a buzz in the audience that had to be shushed.

George also said the proposed roundabout would inflict on his driveway though road commission representatives said the roundabout would fit in the existing right of way without encroachment on adjacent private property.

George was one of several residents who said they would prefer alternative safety solutions for Dye and Court such as a traffic light or rumble strips.

Trustee Frank Kasle said residents’ arguments swayed him.

“I came to this meeting fully prepared to support this roundabout,’’ Kasle said. “This is the third time we have heard the presentation. It sounded like a good idea but I must say that almost all the speakers were against (it).”

“Based on the discussion tonight, I don’t know if we can ever get a roundabout approved in Flint Township but it sounds like residents are opposed to this one so I will vote no.”

Trustee Barb Vert questioned placing the roundabout so close to a neighborhood. She said she had driven on roundabouts in and out of state and understands their purpose but not at that particular intersection.

“I just don’t understand being so close to residents homes. If that was my home, I would not be happy,’’ she said.

Trustee Belenda Parker took exception to proposed plans to fill in ditches alongside the intersection to make the existing right-of-way big enough for the roundabout.

Adjacent Dyewood subdivision has had ongoing drainage problem that is currently being corrected, entailing a hefty special assessment on residents. Parker said filling in the ditches could burden the new drainage system. She did not buy assurances that the new storm sewer system would be three times larger than the old one and would be coordinated to work with the roundabout.

Trustee George Menoutes asked what would happen to the federal funds if the board turned down the roundabout.

Miller said it was a restricted, competitive fund specifically earmarked for this project and would go back for someone else to use.

She also said she had been opposed to the roundabout at first but changed her mind after hearing the details.

She cited statistics showing that crashes in roundabouts tend to be side swipes instead of more injurious t-bone crashes that most often occur at intersections with traffic lights or stop signs.

Miller also noted that the cashstrapped township would bear the burden of costs for any other safety interventions at that intersection including installing a traffic light which she said she has been told could exceed $80,000.

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