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      Are roundabouts safer?

      A new roundabout planned for the City of Ishpeming is still generating a lot of questions among residents. Last week, the Michigan Department of Transportation announced that in the year 2016, they will reconstruct the intersections of US-41 and Second and Third Streets.

      MDOT said the $2 million construction plan is all about safety, but Ishpeming resident Dave Grigg is not convinced.

      "I think that roundabout is just going to cause so much confusion out there, and having everybody slow down to 15 mph is going to cause a traffic jam," said Grigg.

      Michelle Niehaus, also from Ishpeming, said the area will be much safer with a roundabout.

      "It was a pretty good idea, I would say. They have to slow down," said Niehaus. "They have to go through the roundabout at 15 mph just like the one in Marquette."

      A similar roundabout was built in Marquette in 2010 at the intersection of US-41 and South Front Street. From January 2008 to October 2010, 34 accidents were reported in that area. In the time since, 23 accidents have occurred with none involving major injuries, according to Captain Blake Rieboldt of the Marquette Police Department.

      "There's just not as much confusion as far as yielding and who yields to who and stuff like that. It's a real smooth operating intersection now, and we have very minor, minor accidents there," said Rieboldt.

      According to Rieboldt, there is one issue that some drivers still have.

      "Some people still, when they're coming off of South Front Street when they're heading into Marquette, and want to get on the bypass, instead of entering the roundabout, going around the roundabout, they do sometimes turn left," he said.

      Marquette's roundabout was built more for operational purposes to reduce traffic delays. M-DOT said the Ishpeming roundabout is primarily about safety. In the last five years, 71 crashes in the area have resulted in 26 injuries and two fatalities. Ishpeming Police Chief Dan Willey said the reduced speed of the roundabout should significantly reduce those numbers.

      "There is a lot of traffic, and there are a lot of things to be paying attention to when you're driving through that area. In the case of most crashes, it's driver error making the cause of the crash," said Willey.

      Andy Sikkema, the manager of M-DOT's Ishpeming Service Center, expects the roundabout project will result in a 35 percent decrease in overall crashes and a 75 percent decrease in resulting injuries.

      "As we continue to educate the public on what the roundabout will be, where it will be located, I think that people will become accustomed to it and accept the idea," said Sikkema.

      M-DOT plans to hold public meetings this summer to discuss the blueprints for the roundabout. As 2016 gets closer, more meetings will be held to talk about the detour route during construction and how to safely use a roundabout.