New Roundabout Eases Travel in Downtown Sharon
SHARON, Pa. – Surrounded by potted flowers, the sign reads “Welcome to Downtown Sharon” as you enter the newly installed roundabout from Dock Street, connecting to Connelly Boulevard on the southern side of the central business district.
This style of intersection is more common in Europe but is gaining popularity in the Midwest. The roundabout now serves as a pleasant entrance to downtown, and officially opened Friday with a ribbon-cutting.
The project, the first roundabout in Mercer County, is just the most recent piece of an area-wide project that started in 2002. The project also added a center turning lane, turning radius improvements, new sidewalks, curb ramps, new water drains, traffic signals and decorative lighting.
“This is a real asset to the community,” said Jim Foringer, PennDOT’s Northwest Region executive. “When the project started in 2012, PennDOT made a commitment to improve the transportation system of Mercer County for safety and efficiency.”
Added Jill Harry, PennDOT District One press officer: “The Mercer County Metropolitan Planning Organization identified economic development potential for the [state] Route 718 and 760 corridor. They concluded that the road must be improved to accommodate large trucks in 2002.”
Most of the trucks in the corridor are headed to and from Wheatland Tube and NLMK Pennsylvania. The two steel manufacturers are just south of Sharon in Wheatland, Pa.
The $28.1 million project to improve the 718-760 corridor was completed in three phases. Phase One was completed in 2013 with improvements to Broadway Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Sharon, Council Avenue in Wheatland and Fruit Avenue in Farrell. Phase two improved Roemer Boulevard in Farrell to Union Street and was complete in 2016.
“This was originally an intersection with a traffic signal,” said Reggie Jannetti, PennDOT project engineer. “Roundabouts have been proven to improve traffic flow and statistically they reduce accidents. An added benefit is that there is no traffic signal to maintain.”
Kirila Contractors from Brookfield, Ohio, served as general contractor for the entire project. Designs for the improvements where provided by SAI Consulting Engineers, Pittsburgh with inspections performed by Quality Engineering Solutions of Conneaut Lake, Pa. Design and inspection costs totaled $7.6 million.
“This is part of the revitalization of downtown Sharon,” said city manager Bob Fiscus. “This is just another step. The gateway traffic coming into the roundabout is visually appealing and this is now a much safer intersection for emergency services.”
Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, said this will improve traffic flow for the entire downtown.
“This has been a labor of love,” Moreira said. “At first it will be challenge. It is an entirely new concept for the people of Mercer County.”
Drivers must yield to those in the center of the roundabout. Turn signals are used to indicate when a driver is exiting the roundabout.
“Drivers just have to exercise patience,” Jannetti said. “Just use caution when using the roundabout. It’s a change but it is a good change.”
Pictured: James Foringer, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation northwest region director; Reggie Jannetti PennDOT project engineer; Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sherris Moreria and Sharon city manager Bob Fiscus
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