Mercer County hopes roundabout project will solve intersection problems

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Mercer is a small county with fewer than 9,000 people, but people who live there say one of its major intersections is causing a big problem.

There are many different ways to control the flow of traffic at an intersection: stop signs, flashing lights, and the one North of Beulah seems to have it all.

“It’s just a lot of confusion of who yields to who. . .  in the past there has been a history of accidents and even fatalities,” said Wes Gunsch, Mercer County Commissioner.

The intersection of ND highway 200 and 49 is such a hazard that some residents take a detour.

“I feel it is safer just to avoid it all together. . . and Ill just drive through the east entrance of town,” said Jason Pulver, Mercer County resident.

To address the concern the North Dakota Department of Transportation is suggesting a roundabout be put it in, and on Thursday a public input meeting  was held at the Civic Center.

“We like to have public discussions when we are changing the traffic pattern, ” said Sara Cahlin, Project Engineer for NDDOT.

Cahlin said roundabouts have been proven to increase safety and reduce the risk of accidents, but some people who attended the meeting were were concerned if residents of a small county would understand how a roundabout works.

“The first few times is confusing, but we did put a roundabout in Killdeer, and they love them,” said Cahlin.

Others wondered if it would adapt to truck traffic with the areas proximity to coal mines.

“We have run different simulations . . and it works,”said Cahlin.

At the end of the day most people wondered why it wasn’t done years ago.

“I think it is a very worthwhile project, and it is something that should of happened already, ” said Pulver.

Cahlin said the project will cost about $650,000 and will funded by a 80/20 matching grant program using state and federal highway funds.

She also said they don’t anticipate any private land will have to be acquired to construct the project

The public comment period for the project ends on August 17, and they would like to start construction sometime in 2019.

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