Zionsville to Install Roundabout on Oak Street and CR 800 E. (Kissell Road)
For those who have inquired and are curious about the status of the town of Zionsville’s future roundabout (RAB) project at Oak Street and CR 800 E., I spoke with the town’s Director of Public Works Lance Lantz and asked him if he would share some important updates, such as the projected start-finish timeline and why the project will necessitate a full closure of the intersection instead of a partial closure like we experienced during the installation of the roundabout at Oak Street, Marysville Road, and CR 850 E.
The Scope of the Project
As posted on the town of Zionsville’s website, the town is “completing engineering on a roundabout project at the intersection of CR 800 E. (Kissell Road) and Oak Street to replace an existing traffic signal. This traffic signal was installed in 2017 as a temporary measure to assist with traffic management of the intersection until a roundabout could be designed, funded and constructed.
Property owners directly affected by the construction have been contacted. Preliminary construction will take place in 2022 with full construction taking place in 2023. It is anticipated that this project will require a 90-day full closure of this intersection with traffic following a different route.”
Clearing the Area for Utility Relocation
According to Lantz, the work that has been done in the area recently is tree-clearing to allow for the utilities to begin moving their facilities over the next several months, which must be completed before the RAB construction can begin.
“We had originally planned to be under construction in 2022,” Lantz said. “But because of all the complexities with the utility relocation and the fact that this intersection must close entirely for this project, we wanted to make sure that every effort was made to get the utilities out of the way early. A typical road project begins with the construction contract and then the utilities come in and relocate, and that obviously doesn’t allow for much wiggle room when utilities have scheduling issues or encounter unforeseen problems.”
Lantz continued, “So, we awarded a tree-clearing contract in advance of the road project to get this area cleared so that the utilities can have as much time as possible to complete their work before we start the road project.”
During this conversation, Lantz explained that the primary utility is the Wabash Valley Power Association (WVPA), which has large transmission lines along Oak Street, and WVPA has to coordinate their work and get permission from the state because it is such a significant transmission line. According to Lantz, WVPA is expected to begin its work in the beginning of October and be completed by mid-October.
I asked Lantz what the expectation is for planned outages or temporary service disruptions during this phase of utility relocations.
Lantz replied, “There will be very minimal disruptions. Any home in that area that may experience a temporary outage while this work is going on will be contacted directly by the utility provider.”
Barring any unforeseen setbacks, I asked Lantz when the community can anticipate a major change in the traffic pattern next year and when it can expect the full closure of that intersection to commence.
“We are targeting the first of June 2023 — as soon as school is out — to put a full closure of that intersection in place,” Lantz stated. “And we hope to have that closure last only 90 days. This project will bleed into the fall and will affect the fall [school] bus routes,” Lantz said. “That is one of two reasons why we are waiting until that June target date. The [schools] won’t have to change their bus routes in the spring and will only have to deal with one change in the fall. The other reason is the weather is usually a little more predictable and drier.”
Why a Full Closure?
When asked why this RAB project necessitates a full closure of the intersection versus the RAB project at Oak Street and Marysville Road, Lantz explained, “The answer is two-fold. One, to keep a RAB open during construction is extremely costly. You’re building temporary things to get people around a work area and then paying for those only to then rip them out. In this particular case, that is not possible because of the grade change and drop in elevation.”
Lantz shared that coming from the east to the west and towards the creek, there is a 12 to 15-foot drop in elevation.
“Because of this drop in elevation, the RAB has to change the final elevation of the road, and there’s simply no way to build a route on both sides because of that [elevation] change,” Lantz further explained. “The Marysville Road RAB, in simplest terms, was flat, and this [intersection] is extremely not flat.”
Evaluating the Best Detour
I asked Lantz how his department evaluates and decides what the best detour will be when planning a full road closure.
“We will have a marked detour route, and it will be a northern route,” Lantz said. “Local people with local knowledge will find alternative routes to where they need to go on a regular basis, and those coming through town who are unfamiliar with the area are likely to also follow their GPS [devices]. We have driven the proposed routes and have identified some limitations [of these routes] and have presented the alternatives to both Whitestown and Boone County Highway because we will be detouring traffic on their roadways and have asked for their inputs.”
At the time of publishing, Lantz was still awaiting official feedback.
As with any major construction project, there is a period of growing pains typically followed by positive outcomes.
“Roundabouts, in most cases, are much more efficient than a traffic light,” Lantz said. “They reduce emissions, and they move traffic more smoothly. Roundabouts are also less prone to significant crashes because speeds are reduced, and you don’t have people blowing through a red light or not paying attention and traveling through an intersection at high speeds.”
As the area continues to see growth in population and an increase in vehicular traffic as a result of that growth, I asked Lantz if the installation of the Oak Street RABs will help alleviate the congestion along the town’s main eastbound and westbound roadway.
“These are multi-lane roundabouts on Oak Street,” Lantz described. “These will support any traffic demands well into the future as well as whatever Oak Street may look like as a multi-lane facility.”