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Ayers, Hayman, and Culbreath intersection to get roundabout

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Members of the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) have unanimously voted to approve the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Culbreath Road (CR 581) at Ayers/Hayman Road (CR 576). The roundabout would be an alternative to the installation of a traffic signal at that location.

During its Aug. 22 meeting, Tyler Crosby, interim public works chief for Hernando County, said that the idea for the roundabout stems from a 2020 study that revealed the installation of rumble strips or the installation of a traffic signal was necessary to reduce the incidence of speeding and crashes at that intersection. After the initial study was completed, the County public works department installed flashing stop signs on the east side of the intersection, double stop signs, rumble strips, and notifications to the stop signs that cross traffic does not stop.

“We also kept a review of the crash data during this time,” Crosby said. Those studies revealed that from 2017 to 2021, crash (incidents) figures remained level. In 2022, the number of crashes at the intersection increased “considerably.”

Crosby said that this was probably due to the increased traffic resulting from the completion of the Ayers Road extension. “Also, when you have more crashes, you have more injuries,” he said.

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In response, the County engaged the consulting firm of – Burgess & Niple, Inc. to conduct a cost-benefit analysis between the installation of a traffic light and the construction of a roundabout. “The study came back with an estimated cost of the traffic signal of $2,114,467.00 and the construction costs of a roundabout estimated at $2,057,769.00,” Crosby said. Plans also call for the installation of additional lighting to make the roundabout visible, but only construction costs were included in the study as right-of-way acquisition and drainage costs are unknown, he said.

In addition to its lower cost, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the installation of roundabouts slows traffic by about 30 percent, the configuration reduces fatalities by 90 percent, and reduces crashes, resulting in 75 percent fewer crash-related injuries as opposed to the installation of traffic signals.

Commissioner Steve Champion approved of the roundabout option on several grounds. “One of the things I like about this is the maintenance – you have to cut the grass, but you don’t have to do too much,” he said. “Also, it’s going to function when the power goes out, and you don’t have to worry about putting deputies there and that it’s near impossible to have a fatality there – I don’t see how you’re going to have any severe crashes (there).”

Chairman John Allocco agreed. “The main complaint (about this intersection) was the accidents and the risk of fatalities – people running lights,” Allocco said. “You don’t run a roundabout, and even when it gets busy, it continues to flow – our main priority here is to reduce fatalities and severe accidents.”

All in all, it would take an estimated two to two and a half years to complete the entire project, Cosby told the panel. “Should the Board approve moving forward with a roundabout design and acquisition of property necessary for additional right of way and drainage needs, a fee schedule and scope of work will be requested from the consultant,” he said. “Negotiations with property owners will also take place and be brought back to the Board for consideration.”

Interim County Administrator Scott Herring said that roundabout construction plans would accommodate expansion resulting from future development in the area. “Once this roundabout does go in, you may see more development activity up there, and we’ll know what kind of right-of-way we need from all four corners for future expansion,” Herring said. “But we’ll move forward with the two-lane roundabout at this time – I’m not going to let the right-of-way acquisition for future expansion hold this project up.”

Local residents told members of the panel that they agreed with the option but hoped it could be established sooner. “We agree that the roundabout is what needs to be done, but it needs to be done soon- really soon,’ said resident Jeannette Herd. Debra Goldman and others want a four-way stop installed while the roundabout is constructed “Because two and a half years is a long time,” Goldman said.

Finally, members of the BOCC approved the establishment of the roundabout by a 5-0 vote.

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