They are often called roundabouts, traffic circles, or those things in the middle of the road. Whatever you want to call them, they certainly have people talking.
“I like the roundabout,” said Joy Reopel, of Flint.
While Matthew Arnold, of Midland, said, “I don’t think they serve any good purpose.”
For the people who dislike roundabouts, the bad news is more are on the way, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
“We do only have approximately seven in our regional area but there are approximately 43 roundabouts on MDOT roads statewide with many more on local highways,” said Erik Tamlyn, the MDOT Safety and Traffic Operations Engineer. “In addition to those 43, we have several more planned.”
According to Tamlyn, MDOT is looking at more roundabout locations for intersections that have a high concentration of both traffic and crashes.
“We basically eliminate the head on or left turn or angle ‘T-bone’ type crashes by the instillation of theses roundabouts. We’re really improving safety,” Tamlyn said.
If roundabouts improve safety then why are they such a hot topic?
TV5 visited with local businesses closest to two of the busiest roundabouts in Mid-Michigan.
Matthew Arnold works at Pioneer Quick Lube in Midland and has a direct view of the US-10 Business Route roundabout.
“I would say it doesn’t serve any purpose and as far as I’m concerned it’s not that good because it’s creating more problems,” Arnold said.
Arnold has lived in Midland for 15 years and remembers life before the roundabout. He said he sees way more crashes now than he did before.
“There was actually one up here by the pole and that one was a really loud one. That was the most recent," Arnold said.
TV5 obtained crash data from MDOT that tells a different story. According to MDOT, the US-10 Business Route roundabout was built in 2014. The annual crash data from the five years prior to construction to the two years after completion show a 11.11 percent decrease.
After checking out the roundabout in Midland, TV5 headed south to Flint where Joy Reopel has worked at the Marathon gas station on Bristol Road for 17 years.
She said the roundabout in front of General Motors has made a huge difference.
“I’ve not had any problems. I have not heard of any accidents recently since it’s been there," Reopel said.
TV5 has learned since completion in 2016, the Bristol Road roundabout is down to an average of 11 crashes per year. According to MDOT, there were nearly 28 crashes per year in the five years prior to construction.
“So obviously they work. Roundabouts work,” Reopel said.
Reopel’s and Arnold’s opinions may be miles apart, just like their roundabouts, but something they do agree on is more public education could help with hostility towards roundabouts.
Tamlyn said MDOT is working towards that goal.
“Questions that the public might have like, ‘I’m not familiar with this type of intersection or how will it operate, how do I drive this roundabout?’, We want to provide that time during development of the project prior to when it's constructed to provide that information," Tamlyn said.