Caribou roundabout opens to traffic today

This story was published on Nov. 08, 2006 on Page B2 in edition 1 of the Bangor Daily News

CARIBOU – Barriers will be removed and traffic will start moving again on Route 1 near Cary Medical Center today, nearly three months after the start of construction of a traffic-controlling roundabout.

While the roundabout is not completely finished, traffic from both directions no longer will be rerouted through the medical center’s front lawn. Construction was started Aug. 14 and is expected to end for the winter season at the end of next week. Finishing touches will come in the spring, with a final layer of pavement and work on land around the project, which is the first of its kind in Aroostook County.

“We expect traffic will start going through the roundabout between noon and 1 p.m. on Wednesday,” Tim Hebert, project resident for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Tuesday. “There are still some finishing touches to be done this year and in the spring.

“This project was done to slow traffic in the area of the hospital,” he said. “Everyone needs to remember to drive slow through the area. There will be signs directing drivers.”

Motorists going into and out of the roundabout need to make right-hand turns, Hebert said.

He said a roundabout channels traffic better and prevents left-hand turns. “It makes it safer for everyone,” he said.

The intersection where the roundabout is located includes north- and southbound traffic on Route 1, traffic entering Route 1 from both North Main Street and the entrance-exit to the medical center.

The area has high traffic. Traffic counts showed 1,350 vehicles a day enter and leave the medical center. Another 2,350 vehicles enter and leave the area on Route 1 north, and 2,800 vehicles a day travel between the hospital and Route 89. The hospital compound includes the medical center, a veterans home, a veterans clinic and a children’s day clinic.

As many as five lanes converge in the area. In the previous three years as many as 14 accidents have happened there.

The DOT, in conjunction with the hospital and the city, developed the roundabout.

The $750,000 proposal came after at least three years of discussion. The project area is about 700 to 750 feet on Route 1.

Ed Pelletier and Sons Construction Co. of Madawaska is the contractor for the DOT project.

While roundabouts are designed to slow traffic, drivers are asked to be cautious with the new traffic controller. People need to slow down as they approach a roundabout. Entering at a high rate of speed is difficult and dangerous.

The roundabout will have new signs and raised islands separating lanes of traffic as they near the roundabout. Motorists need to remain to the right of the center island as they travel counterclockwise.

A car approaching the intersection from the north will have to go 270 degrees around the circle to enter the hospital. It will be the same for northbound traffic entering North Main Street.

Drivers in the circle have the right of way, and those wanting to enter the circle must wait.

When completed, the entire area will have overhead lighting for night vision and myriad signs before the roundabout and while going through the circle.

There still will be workers at the site for the next 10 days, and flaggers will be present. People need to be cautious going through the area.