By Barry Dalton
On June 1, Jerome Woelfel, 80, was driving with his wife, Sharon, 78, north on Hwy. 54 when his 2018 Chevy Equinox was hit by another driver on the right side at Bassinger Corner.
Head on and side collisions are the two most serious types of crashes, especially when driving at 55 mph or more. Both Jerome and Sharon were wearing seatbelts but they were transferred to Audrain Community Hospital with “serious injuries,” according to the report by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Brian Untiedt, central area engineer for MoDOT Northeast District, attended the monthly meeting of the Hwy. 54 Coalition on June 16, which was held in Vandalia this month. During the meeting, Untiedt updated the group of city, state and county officials about plans for a roundabout at Bassinger Corner. Bassinger Corner is the intersection of Hwy. 54, which changes directions from a north-south roadway to an east-west roadway, and Hwy. 19, which continues to be north-south. Hwy. J also intersects with Hwy. 54 and Hwy. 19 at Bassinger Corner.
“They’re about finished with design,” Untiedt said. “They’re going to start getting with the property owners. There’s a few there that we need to get with.”
MoDOT commissioned a Roadway Safety Assessment of both Scott’s Corner, which now has a roundabout, and Bassinger Corner in the summer of 2016. The assessment involved a group of people from MoDOT, Community R-VI, local farmers and first responders looking at the intersections and considering options for helping to reduce severe crashes.
“We then worked with a Community Advisory Group in December of 2016 and January of 2017 to determine a plan of action,” Untiedt said. “The CAG preferred to move forward with replacing the intersections with roundabouts, while also making a few short term changes at the intersections based on feedback from the safety assessment group and CAG.”
The roundabout at Scotts Corner was completed in the fall of 2019. The roundabout at Bassingers Corner is scheduled for construction in the spring of 2022.
Untiedt says there will be public involvement opportunities before construction begins, but so far he says they have gotten a lot of positive feedback.
“So far we’ve gotten really positive reviews on the one down at Scott’s Corner,” Untiedt said. “People are pretty happy about it. It’s to the point where people are asking when we are going to get one at Bassinger Corner.”
One of the challengers of the design was working around the natural gas pipelines in the area. He added that the traffic plans have not been completed yet, but there is a chance Hwy. J might close during construction.
“You asked about the three advantages of roundabouts when it comes to safety, and I would say that they are reduction of conflict points, specifically right angle conflicts, reduction of speed, and efficient movement of traffic,” said Untiedt.
Conflict points are the areas of an intersection where there is a possibility for contact between two vehicles during a major or minor crash. Roundabouts have very few of these compared to traditional intersections, according to MoDOT. When crashes do occur at a roundabout, statistics show they tend to be at slower speeds and at less lethal angles of impact.
While roundabouts don’t eliminate all crashes and injuries, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says roundabouts reduce the total number of crashes by 39%, the number of injury crashes by 76% and the number of serious injury and fatal crashes by 89%.