Letter – Citizens should vote on roundabout

Published 10:22 am Saturday, February 22, 2020

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Some people believe if they are given a gift and it costs nothing, then it should be accepted without hesitation. But when it comes to the proposed Farmville roundabout, one should be a little skeptical.

This project will be up against competition in the funding selection process.  Because it will look nice it is not among the list of six evaluation factor areas utilized for Smart Scale funding.  There are no guarantees that our project will be chosen for funding.  What about changes in scope or cost of the project?  The applicant will be responsible for the additional cost, if any.  When will we know what we will owe?

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It is a fact that the incident rate at the intersection of High, Griffith and Oak Streets is low in comparison to other intersections in Farmville.  When Mr. Harter from VDOT spoke at a special meeting in January 2018, he did not think that a roundabout was necessary for safety’s sake.  He did note that, “If you don’t have a crash issue now, you always run the risk that anything you do differently, may pose an issue.”

When Mr. Youngblood from VDOT spoke at the November 13, 2019, council meeting, all he could refer to was data given to him by McCormick Taylor, and how a roundabout would make an intersection 78% safer, according to the Federal Highway Administration statistics.  Seventy-eight percent of already safe?   Was it the possibility of the availability of Smart Money that changed their evaluation? It should be noted that this intersection handles a major portion of the pedestrian traffic from the university.

According to the National Traffic Safety Administration there were 6,283 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in 2018, and that number is expected to climb when they compile the data for 2019.  Initially, this increase had been attributed to drivers being distracted while texting, but recently, this spike in fatalities has been attributed to pedestrians being distracted by electronic devices that take their eyes and ears off the road.

Channel 8 News analyzed the incident reports of roundabouts in the five years before and five years after they were constructed, and found that in almost every case there was a slight increase in crashes at the roundabouts vs. signaled intersections.  At the roundabout in front of Virginia Union University, accidents soared from just three before the roundabout, to 16 after it was installed.

Kerri O’Brien from Channel 8 News did a follow up to this story in an interview with Richmond City Engineer Travis Bridewell.  She shared the data with city engineers, and asked them if they had looked at those accidents.  Mr. Bridewell said that he would be glad to review them but, during the interview, he admitted engineers never looked back to see if the circles that were already in place were working, before adding more.  He just repeated what the Federal Highway Administration had asserted that roundabouts were safer.

Perhaps a project of this magnitude  should not be decided by a handful of residents, the University’s Master Plan, nor the town council,  but rather should be put to the entire town at the ballot box as a referendum, after all the pertinent information has been presented.

Jim Fauci