ONALASKA, Wis. -- A 3.5-mile stretch of Highway 35 in Onalaska will soon get a makeover, and some of the major road improvements include roundabouts as an added safety feature, but are roundabouts safer than the traditional intersection?
The concept of roundabouts may seem fairly new to our area, however the state of Wisconsin already has more than 200 of them.
While roundabouts won't prevent all crashes from happening, they are beneficial. The owner of F.C. Stair School of Driving, Fred Stair said it just takes some getting used to.
“I think generally roundabouts make intersection driving safe, and efficient, and faster than the traditional stopping at a stoplight or a stop sign for a minute or so,” said Stair.
In 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will convert two intersections off Highway 35, one at Rider's Club road and one at Mason Street in Onalaska, into roundabouts as part of a highway reconstruction project.
It is big changes to an area Wisconsin DOT Traffic Engineer Andy Winga said not everyone likes.
“When we introduced roundabouts, it seems like the public has a lot of hesitation towards them, and I think that just stems from the unfamiliarity with them,” said Winga.
Winga said these changes will help regulate traffic flow and minimize deadly head-on crashes.
“Most of the crashes that we're seeing in the roundabout are the sideswipe, and kind of a more rear-ended, and less severe, and at a much slower speed,” said Winga. “The average speed through a roundabout is less than 20 miles per hour.”
While they won’t stop every crash from happening, Winga said it's a start.
“If we could come up with an intersection design that would prevent every crash that would be great,” said Winga. “The point of the roundabout is to reduce the severity as much as possible. Of course we'd like to reduce the number of crashes, but if we could reduce the severity of the crashes that's a huge step in the right direction.”
Winga said so far the state has seen about a 50 percent decrease in the number of injuries and fatal crashes at intersections that were replaced with roundabouts.
He said there has also been decrease of about 10 percent in all crashes.
Plans for possibly converting the intersection at Cass and Seventh street in La Crosse are still in the works for 2015.
The Highway 35 reconstruction project will also include repaving and an up-grade to a two-lane highway.