The intersection at the entrance to Hagerstown Community College on Robinwood Drive will be converted to a roundabout as part of an upcoming road-widening project, Washington County's Board of County Commissioners decided Tuesday.
The change was requested by Hagerstown Community College's Board of Trustees and will require a $112,500 increase in the design contract, which was already under way, county Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III said.
The roundabout will be part of a roughly $10 million project that also includes widening Robinwood Drive between Medical Campus Road and the entrance to the college. The project is scheduled for construction beginning in summer 2012, with completion in the fall or winter of 2013.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a change order increasing the design contract with AB Consultant/Sabra Wang Associates by $112,500 and 139 additional days.
Construction cost is also estimated to increase by $73,500 with the addition of the roundabout, but that amount is marginal as a percentage of the roughly $8 million anticipated construction cost, Deputy Director of Public Works Robert J. Slocum said. The full project budget is about $9.6 million.
Design on the project has been under way for about a year and the county has been in discussions with area landowners about rights of way needed for the project, Kroboth said. When the county began speaking with HCC about land needed near the college, HCC President Guy Altieri expressed concerns about the functionality of the intersection and how it affected access to the college, Kroboth said.
Altieri asked Kroboth to speak with the college's trustees, who requested that the county consider converting the intersection to a roundabout.
A roundabout is an intersection without a traffic signal, where traffic circulates around a central island and vehicles approaching the circle yield to those already in it.
"I'm a huge advocate for roundabout intersections for the safety aspects, but also the long-term maintenance costs are substantially lower," Kroboth said.
Commissioner William B. McKinley asked whether traffic volumes at the intersection were within the range suitable for a roundabout. Kroboth said they were, and a roundabout is actually a better fit based on traffic volume.
"The idea is to get as much traffic through as efficiently as possible, and we're quite confident a roundabout does that better than a signal," Slocum said.
Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham was skeptical.
"I could foresee a time at which that traffic ... coming south, trying to intersperse themselves with the traffic coming around trying to get into the college at class time, could be very careless," Callaham said.
Callaham also suggested that the college ought to donate any right of way needed for the improvements, particularly if the county modifies the project to include a roundabout at the college's request. Commissioners President Terry Baker agreed.
Kroboth said the county and the college are still in negotiations on that topic.