Northside roundabout will reopen access to Interstate
By Gene Kemmeter
The north side of Stevens Point will be more easily accessible to the world again by the end of next week, with some exceptions.
The intersection of Division Street North and North Point Drive, plus the off-ramps from Interstate 39 onto Business Highway 51, have been closed since June 7 and should be open to traffic upon completion of the construction by Friday, Aug. 30.
Scott Beduhn, director of public works, said the project is still on schedule and the final pavement for the roundabout should be completed by the end of this week. Pavement markings will be painted next week and then a few odds and ends need to be finished before the intersection will be open to traffic.
The roundabout is the first within the city, and the second in Portage County. That first one opened Sept. 2, 2015, at the intersection of Highway 54 (Business Highway 51) and Maple Drive in Plover.
Roundabouts aren’t necessarily popular among motorists, at least initially, possibly because motorists are unfamiliar with them and the signing sometimes leaves much to be desired. Drivers will probably need some time to get accustomed to it before they feel confident navigating the roundabout. Remember to look left and turn right.
I drove into my first roundabout several years ago in Ireland while leaving the airport. In Ireland, as in Britain, drivers are on the opposite side of the road and opposite side of the car compared to Americans, and I correctly followed the Irish saying for roundabouts, look right and turn left. However, I missed the exit and returned to the airport on my first try, so I had to I turn around and finally got out of the airport. I was on my way in a foreign country with the help of three backseat drivers.
The intersection with the roundabout should be safer. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control. Hence, the Sentry Insurance support for the roundabout.
Drivers entering a roundabout yield to the one-way traffic from the left and turn right, then stay in their lane to their exit. That sounds easy, but heavy traffic can slow the process. Information on roundabouts in Wisconsin can be found online at http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/safety/safety-eng/roundabouts/works.aspx.
While that intersection and the one at Fourth Avenue and Isadore Street will be open next week, construction on Isadore between Fourth and Maria Drive will be halted Thursday of next week and the road made travelable to allow University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students to move into their residence halls.
Beduhn said contractors hope to have the pavement installed south of Fourth and, while conditions won’t be ideal, the street should be safe and drivable. The construction project will then resume on Isadore after classes resume. Completion of the project isn’t expected until last October.