Roundabout To Benefit Pedestrians

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

State officials say a planned roundabout in downtown Dallas will make travel easier for pedestrians and people with disabilities.

“I think the roundabout could be potentially confusing for students at first, especially the students who have been attending Misericordia for a few years,” said Liana Kalish, a senior RA at 111 Lake Street, “but I think it can also end up being very beneficial.”

The Dallas Five-Leg Intersection Improvement Project, which is set to be completed in 2016, will join all five streets in the heart of Dallas – Memorial Highway, Lake Street, Church Street, Main Street and Machell Avenue with a single circulating travel lane, which will enable drivers to pass without stopping for traffic lights.

PennDOT and Dallas Borough worked together to create the traffic pattern that officials say will lessen time drivers waste at the busy intersection. The project is still in the planning stages and no firm start date has been set.

Because the university has facilities on both Lake Street and Machell Avenue, many students travel the area on foot. Senior education major Marisa Ferenchick, who lived in a Machell Avenue dorm, did a lot of walking around Lake Street and she feels the new traffic pattern will make the trek much safer.

“I do think it’ll be a benefit but I think it will take time to get used to,” she said.

Ferenchick remembers a time when she walked to Weis Supermarkets and it was a “horrid experience,” she said.

She said it was difficult to judge when to cross the street because even if the “walk” symbol was lit, cars continued to turn onto different spokes of the five-way intersection.

“I eventually just waited for there to be not many cars and ran across,” she said.

Officials say the Dallas Five-Leg Intersection Improvement Project will make the intersection pedestrian-friendly. The project’s official website says the current intersection requires pedestrians to cross multiple lanes of traffic, an unsafe situation. In addition, the website states there are currently no ADA-compliant pedestrian amenities. There will be shorter overall crossing distances, and pedestrians will only need to cross one direction of traffic at a time. ADA-compliant sidewalks and ramps will be added.

Alexa Cholewa, a junior accounting major, said she rarely sees pedestrians walking or biking near or around the five-way intersection. She isn’t sure if pedestrians feel walking is too dangerous or whether they will be more confi- dent once it is in place.

“In the long run, I think the accessibility to pedestrians could be beneficial, especially with Misericordia growing in size, and it’ll be easier to walk places,” she said.

Roundabouts are common traffic patterns throughout the world, but the United States is a little behind on the trend, the site says. There are 90 roundabouts in Maryland, for example, and more than 70 in New York. Pennsylvania has only 17.

Director of Facilities and Campus Safety Paul Murphy acknowledges the heavy traffic during certain hours of the school day, and he feels the roundabout may help alleviate the pile up.

“When you leave class almost anytime in the day, there is a large number of students who go down Lake Street and typically traffic backs up at the intersection. And, depending on how many cars can get through the intersection, whether it be five or 10 cars, sometimes there is someone not paying attention and they look up and the light has to change and the line gets longer.”

But the construction process may present more traffic woes, said Cholewa. She travels through the five-way intersection 10 times a week on average, to classes Mon- day through Thursday, her part- time retail job at Banana Republic in Wilkes-Barre and her job as an assistant cheerleading coach at a local high school.

“I think people are going to get really frustrated – especially people who commute or people who have to leave campus regularly.” She said she worries that class attendance will decrease among commuters who have to take detours, although official detour plans are not available.

“I think attendance is going to drop because people will get frustrated and not be able to make it on time because of the construction, or people aren’t going to be able to work off campus as much because of the construction, they will have to drive through to get off campus and make it back in time for a class,” she said.

With the already high volume of commuter traffic, Cholewa wonders how long it will take her to get under the arch.

“I get stuck at lights and that makes me late,” she said. “With the construction process, there is not going to be a way for me to gauge how much time is needed to travel from point A to point B when going through this. No matter where you go with construction it’s never consistent.”

Still, Cholewa feels so frustrated by the current congestion she tweets about it on Twitter. She said lately, it seems the traffic lights have not been synced correctly at the intersection.

“I actually just tweeted about this – it’s a two second green and a 14 minute red. Since there are five lights, it takes forever. At a regular four-way two can cross through at a time, for the most part, but at the bottom of Lake Street it’s one at a time.”

She said she will be happy to see the traffic lights go.

“Right now I can’t envision this, but in theory it sounds like a good idea,” she said of the outcome.

Ferenchick also leaves campus often as she completes student teaching this semester. While she does not travel directly through the five-way intersection to get to her placement, she worries where the traffic will be detoured during construction.

“I feel as though I might get confused as to where I have to go, especially for people who aren’t always driving around the Dallas area. It would confuse them on which way to go,” she said.

Murphy said the university plans to work with PennDOT to make the construction phase as trouble- free as possible.

“They’ve been very informative and kept us up to speed with public meetings, and I’m sure we’ll have meetings with them and they’ll detail the sequence and what’s going to be shut down. We’ll have to discuss with them alternate travel patterns.”

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