Construction of 8th Avenue roundabout moving forward

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: A car enters the intersection at the construction area of the 8th Avenue roundabout. Construction is slated to last through May.

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – Construction on the roundabout at the “Y” intersection of 8th Avenue, Safford/Bryce Road, and Airport Road continued in earnest this week and necessitated a closure with a detour. 

Safford District Engineer Bill Harmon previously told the Gila Herald that there will be partial delays during construction with detours within the project site to get people around. Harmon added that all projects done by ADOT are safety projects and the roundabout is no exception. 

“It takes an intersection with an awkward movement and sight distance and it mitigates speed and makes it more comfortable for the drivers to come together and negotiate those turns, especially for the big trucks, (so) they don’t have to make difficult, sharp turns anymore,” Harmon said. 

Contributed Graphic of 8th Avenue Roundabout/Courtesy ADOT

According to ADOT, construction of the roundabout is expected to last through May.

Graham County Manager Dustin Welker has described the 8th Avenue roundabout as being a bigger version of the one Thatcher installed in Daley Estates to better accommodate large truck traffic bound for Freeport McMoRan Inc.’s Safford Operations mine.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Heavy machinery was at work at the intersection this week.

The Daley Estates roundabout is constructed at the intersection of Golf Course Road, Reay Lane, Hoopes Avenue, and Robinson Avenue. While both that intersection and the 8th Avenue intersection have an odd number of connecting roads, Thatcher is also set to construct its first roundabout on a regular, four corner intersection as part of its $2.4 million Church Street renewal project. That roundabout, which is being administered by the Town of Thatcher and will utilize Hatch Construction as well, will go in at the intersection of Church Street and Third Avenue to service traffic to Thatcher High School.  

Graphic By ADOT

Every year, more than 7,000 people are killed and nearly 1 million are injured in intersection-related crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHA). Most of the deaths and injuries are due to right-angle crashes at intersections with stoplights and stop signs. Roundabouts reduce that statistic because any collision is more likely to be a low-speed, same-direction glancing blow because of the curvature and the resulting lower traffic speeds (usually between 15-25 mph) in a roundabout. Additionally, conflict points (where two vehicles could collide) are reduced from 32 conflict points with a traditional, four-legged intersection to just eight in an equivalent roundabout.

The FHA also reports that roundabouts improve safety for not just motor vehicles but for pedestrians and bicyclists as well.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Be prepared for road closures and detours during construction.

How to drive around modern roundabouts

As you enter a roundabout, remember two key points:

  1. Never merge. The right of way is observed at the yield sign. Motorists already in the roundabout have the right of way. You must slow down or stop to yield to traffic approaching from the left. Wait for a gap in traffic, then carefully proceed into the roundabout.
  2. Go slow:
    • Slow down to 15-25 mph when entering.
    • Let vehicles already circulating go ahead.
    • Obey all one-way signs.
    • Watch for pedestrians, bicyclists, emergency vehicles and large vehicles.

For multiple-lane usage, follow these guidelines depending on traffic patterns:

  • For right-hand turns, travel in the right-hand lane and use your turn signal.
  • For left-hand turns, travel in the left-hand lane and use your turn signal.
  • For continuing forward, remain in the same lane you entered.
  • For missed exits, circle around the roundabout again.

*Source: ADOT

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