Resident raises concerns about safety of upcoming Jeremy roundabouts
Josh Mann, a Jeremy Ranch resident, considers himself an electric bike enthusiast. He figures he probably puts nearly 2,000 miles on his e-bike every summer.
So when Summit County unveiled a page on the county website earlier this month dedicated to the project to reconstruct the Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook interchanges, it raised some questions for him, particularly regarding safety.
Mann said he likes the proposal to create roundabouts to help traffic flow better at the interchanges. The roundabouts are intended to prevent traffic from backing up onto Interstate 80 and accommodate the increase in capacity that is expected through 2050.
But, Mann wonders how safe the area will be for cyclists and pedestrians. He said he would never let his two children, who attend Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, use the proposed paths near the roundabouts.
“Roundabouts are a great idea. I have personally been stuck in traffic and it is difficult to turn at those intersections,” he said. “I think it is the execution of it, though, and making sure it is pedestrian friendly.” The project will include two roundabouts, a separated trail and accommodations for pedestrians, including tunnels under the freeway ramps and Kilby Road. The rendering on the county’s website shows crosswalks will also be used for pedestrians to access the separated trail and move throughout the roundabout. One of the crosswalks would be on Homestead Road near the Jeremy Store.
“It is going to be difficult to use,” Mann said. “It’s not like it’s going to be easy to cross the roundabout at that point and, in my experience, when it becomes difficult people don’t use it.”
Mann used the roundabout on Ute Boulevard and Landmark Drive as an example. He said cars don’t often stop for pedestrians who are trying to use the crosswalks, leaving the pedestrians stranded for several minutes.
“I feel bad for people walking in the roundabout there,” he said. “I saw a mother with two small children stop at the roundabout the other day. She would not cross until the cars stopped and most of them didn’t. I could see the fear in her eyes when she was finally able to walk through.”
Another concern Mann raised was for electric bike users and road cyclists, which are popular in the area. He said it is almost safer right now for cyclists without the roundabouts because traffic is slower, making it easier to navigate.
“With big roundabouts we will have cars trying to change lanes and they will be looking for other cars that are trying to enter and that is where safety issues will arise,” he said. “When some people are driving, they are not necessarily worried about pedestrians, cyclists or e-bike users. Something that complex will be dangerous.”
Some of Mann’s concerns stem from the issues with the county’s last project — the redesign of Kilby Road. The county eventually added more pavement along Kilby Road to provide more of a buffer for cyclists after being inundated with complaints from the cycling community.
“The last project we saw doesn’t appear to be a good design and most people feel it is dangerous and hard to use,” he said. “It’s important that the county get this right and it is designed well. Let’s not try anything new or innovate with this one.”
Walt Wehner, another Jeremy Ranch resident, said he doesn’t think the new design will be unsafe, however. He said it will likely be safer than the current situation, which he described as horrible.
Wehner suggested waiting another year or two on the project. He said the county shouldn’t rush, like he says it did with Kilby Road.
“If we want this system to function for cyclists and pedestrians, we can’t do it halfway,” he said. “You have to look at it as a system. I think the tunnels are great. But, if you think of someone coming from anywhere in Jeremy the tunnels are great to go to Pinebrook. But, you still have to cross a bunch of traffic. This is supposed to be a solution to traffic for the next 30 years, so we will be living with this design for 30 plus years. Let’s do it right.”
Krachel Murdock, a spokeswoman for Summit County, said the roundabout design was deemed the safest option for vehicles and pedestrians to move throughout the area. She said stoplights were considered, but were not feasible because of the distance between intersections.
Murdock said the project was initially estimated to cost closer to $6 million. But, over the last couple of years construction costs have increased and the county added more enhancements for pedestrian safety raising the cost to $10.6 million. However, she said the county did not have the ability to add bicycle lanes as part of the project.
“We are trying to get as many cars through there (under I-80) so we will be adding an additional lane in each direction,” she said. “It will be taking away the shoulder that cyclists may use now. But, after the project is complete, we will be able to paint the road so cars know to share the lanes with cyclists.”
Murdock acknowledged “you can’t please everyone.” She said officials had to make decisions regarding the design of the project to appease a majority of the community, knowing it wouldn’t be able to address concerns of everyone.
“We are doing something here for the greater cause,” she said. “We intend to make people as happy as possible to improve the transportation experience for everyone whether it’s on foot, on bike or in a vehicle.”
The county wants the roundabouts to be constructed simultaneously over the summer. The work is set to begin later this spring.
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The South Summit Board of Education voted 4-1 to put a bond measure on November’s ballot asking for $87 million to build a new high school.