'Mini-roundabout' planned at intersection near Bel Air hospital


Harford County plans to install what it calls a "mini-roundabout," the first of its kind, at the intersection of Tollgate and West MacPhail roads in Bel Air.

The plan will be the subject of a public hearing Wednesday at the Bel Air library beginning at 6 p.m. The county only announced the hearing over the long holiday weekend.

The four-way intersection to be served by the new roundabout is considered busy because it is a block from Upper Chesapeake Medical Center. It is also a block north of an existing roundabout at the three-way intersection of Tollgate Road and Markeplace Drive, one of the first roundabouts to be constructed in the greater Bel Air area.

According to the news release announcing Wednesday's hearing, "the purpose of the meeting is to allow the public to gain information pertaining to the construction of the first mini-roundabout which is proposed at the intersection of MacPhail Road and Tollgate Road in Bel Air."

Construction of the mini-roundabout is scheduled to begin later this summer.

According to the county DPW, a mini-roundabout functions virtually identical to a roundabout except it is slightly smaller and does not have landscaping in the central island.

"The advantage of a mini-roundabout is they can fit into existing intersections, usually within existing right-of-way limits, thereby saving money and reducing the impact to adjacent residences or businesses," according to the news release.

The existing intersection of Tollgate and West MacPhail is controlled by a stop sign on both sides of MacPhail.

The project will save the county money because it will not have to relocate a major utility pole at the intersection, Jeff Stratmeyer, the county's chief engineer for highways, said.

"We had a roundabout planned [there] for quite a while, but the cost to relocate utilities was very high and wouldn't really justify the cost of the roundabout," he said.

The small roundabout would cost about $80,000 instead of the typical average of $350,000 to $400,000 it costs to build a typical roundabout, he said.

The state has only a handful of mini-roundabouts, so it is a relatively new concept in the U.S., although Stratmeyer said it has been done in Europe.

He said it should alleviate residents' traffic concerns, with the Upper Chesapeake Health facility nearby.

"I know the community had come to us and asked to do something there," Stratmeyer said. "It's something they have wanted for a while."

He said if it proves successful, the county might consider more mini-roundabouts in the future in situations like this one where it would save utility costs.

For further information regarding construction of Harford County's first mini-roundabout, contact Stratmeyer or Rick Bates, project manager, 410-638-3509.

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