For Jefferson residents, the question of adding a roundabout on Md. 180 is not a question of if, but how.
The project to create the roundabout at Md. 180 and Mount Zion Road is still in the design phase, with plans to begin construction in the summer of 2019.
State transportation officials say the roundabout is needed to reduce the number of serious crashes at the intersection.
State Highway Administration staff met with residents Thursday night at the Jefferson Ruritan Center to discuss the project and address the community’s questions and concerns.
The state has been looking at Md. 180 and Mount Zion Road for several years, said District 7 Engineer John Concannon.
It has changed marking, signage and lighting, but still continues to see crashes at the intersection, he said.
The project will require closing the intersection for eight weeks in the summer of 2019, which will be scheduled for when school is out of session.
Crash data showed 10 crashes at the intersection between 2012 and 2016, all of which were so-called angle crashes, which tend to cause more serious injuries than sideswipes or rear-end crashes, said SHA Project Manager April Stitt.
Studies have shown that roundabouts dramatically reduce several crash statistics, including a 68 percent reduction in the total crash rate, a 99 percent reduction in the fatal crash rate, an 86 percent drop in injury crashes, and a 40 percent drop in property damage crashes, she said.
Adding a roundabout is expected to cost about $5 million, while installing a traffic light would cost about $2.5 million to $3 million, Stitt said.
But adding a traffic signal would require putting in new poles and bases, and other work, she said.
“It’s not as straightforward as just putting a new signal in,” she said.
Jefferson resident John Powell questioned whether closing the intersection and diverting traffic to other roads for as long as the project would require was worth it for the number of crashes that SHA cited.
“It doesn’t justify it,” Powell said after the meeting.
Concannon said that the 10 crashes were only the ones that SHA knew about and that had been reported to police, and didn’t count more minor crashes.
Other concerns at the meeting included whether various detours would be safe alternatives with the increased traffic, whether the cost of a roundabout was worth the extra cost compared with a traffic signal, and drivers’ experiences and frustrations with roundabouts.
Eric Arnold, of Jefferson, said he “sort of” supported the project.
The increase in traffic between Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Frederick, and what traffic will be like in 10 or 15 years, probably makes the project necessary, he said.
Meanwhile, Brenda Lucas, of Jefferson, questioned whether the roundabout was really required.
“I just don’t see the need for it. I think a stoplight would work just fine,” she said.