DALLAS — The monthly council meeting was a heated one as Back Mountain residents voiced their opposition to the Dallas roundabout Wednesday.
Nearly 100 residents filled the Back Mountain Emergency Management Services meeting room for a two-and-a-half hour meeting.
“None of us citizens here really want this (the roundabout),” Sharon Ellsworth, of Jackson Township, told the borough council, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the project’s engineering firm, McMahon Associates.
One by one, residents and business owners tried to poke holes in the planned roundabout for the five-leg intersection of Main, Lake and Church streets, Machell Avenue and Route 415. They cited the $4 million price tag, safety issues for both pedestrians and vehicles plus the effect a three-year construction process will have on area businesses.
“Roundabouts are a relatively new concept for NEPA,” said Nicole Kline, a senior project engineer with McMahon Associates.
The roundabout will reduce vehicle accidents by 90 percent and provide a 40 percent drop in pedestrian accidents, Kline said.
From 2002 to 2014, there were “33 reportable crashes,” resulting in 26 injuries at the intersection, she said.
“A roundabout could cut this number in half,” Kline said. “The most common accident in a roundabout is a side swipe.”
The roundabout will have four main points to control traffic and speed to make it safe, Kline added.
The compact circle will decrease vehicle speeds as drivers in the roundabout yield to entering vehicles and pedestrians, Kline said.
The information did little to satisfy concerns or change the minds of those in the audience.
Ellsworth remains skeptical. She said she will find other places to shop during the construction process and worries the project’s effect on organizations.
“I am a Back Mountain Bloomer and this is really going to impact our garden tour,” she said. “We raise between $15,000 to $20,000 that goes to the trails (Back Mountain Trails).”
William Beahm, of the Sweet Valley EMS, wanted to know what happens when he is transporting a critical patient and he reaches the roundabout. How will traffic get out of the way so the ambulance can get through? he asked
Kline said traffic needs to exit the roundabout and pull over, but a 19-foot lane with a 16-foot truck apron provides room for the ambulance to navigate around vehicles that may be stopped in the circle.
Steve Giampaolo, senior project manager with McMahon Associates Inc., said planning meetings were held with local emergency management services to ensure the project meets their needs.
“This (the roundabout) is going to go through and it will probably work fairly well,” said Joe Hand, of Sue Hand’s Imagery in Dallas. “But I would like to request, during the course of construction, that no construction vehicles can park on Main Street.”
Other business owners asked if the borough could provide compensation for business interruption during the construction period.
Robert Edgerton, president of the Dallas Borough Council, said no construction vehicle parking is within the council’s power to implement.
“Business interruption insurance is something we can look into,” Edgerton said. “I can’t make any guarantees.”
“We are not the enemy here. We live in the town, too,” said Charles Youngman, Dallas Borough Council vice president. “At the same time, we have to look to the future.”
The Dallas Roundabout was first proposed in a 2005 Back Mountain Area Transportation Study by Edwards and Kelcey, that identifies the five-leg intersection as reaching capacity.
“Seven public meetings were held about the project,” said Jack Mitchell, vice president at McMahon Associates.
With nearly 500 units planned for Yalick Farms development in Dallas Township, Misericordia University expanding services and a growing population in Harvey Lake Borough, the Back Mountain region is growing, Dallas Township resident William MacIntosh said.