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RoundaboutAfter almost a year of construction, the roundabout at Routes 15 and 53 is finally complete.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) estimated throughout the past year that the roundabout would be finished as of Wednesday (Aug. 23). Both Lou Hatter, of VDOT district communications, and Alan Saunders, VDOT resident engineer, confirmed earlier this month that construction should be completed on time.

The roundabout has transformed the landscape of one of Fluvanna’s busiest T-intersections. During school and rush hour traffic, vehicles often remain stopped for several minutes. VDOT hopes the roundabout will transform traffic congestion as well.

“The roundabout should work extremely well in that location,” said Hatter. “One of the issues that we had was an increase in traffic volume after [Fluvanna County] High School was relocated to Route 53. The advantage to a roundabout is that it allows traffic to flow through the intersection using the natural breaks in the traffic flow, so you tend to not get the stacked-up traffic at the stop sign.” The total cost of the project was $2.7 million, said Hatter. Creating the roundabout came in three phases.

The first phase, preliminary engineering, is the work that goes into designing the project. “It starts at the very beginning: when we do the scoping, what’s going to be involved in doing this project, all the way through the production of the final design plans,” Hatter said. Preliminary engineering for this roundabout totaled $565,700.

The second phase includes the acquisition of right-of-way and “any utility relocation that might be involved,” Hatter said. The second phase of the project cost $110,600.

The third phase is the most visible to Fluvanna residents: construction. The construction phase stretches from when the contractor breaks ground – in the case of this roundabout, last September – through completion of the project. The construction phase had cost $2,030,967 by the beginning of August.

The roundabout was funded by a combination of state, federal and local dollars. Fluvanna’s contribution to the project was $550,000.

VDOT believes that roundabouts can be safer than intersections marked with stop signs.

“We see fewer crashes at roundabouts, and when we do have crashes they tend to be less severe because all of the vehicles are traveling at slower speeds,” Hatter said.
For example, he said, if someone pulled out of Route 53 in front of a car traveling 35 miles per hour on Route 15, the crash could be severe. The roundabout reduces that possibility. “Everyone has to slow down because of the configuration of the roundabout,” he said.

This roundabout is Fluvanna’s second. Its first, at the intersection of Routes 53 and 600 (South Boston Road), was completed in 2013.

Another roundabout is in the works for the intersection of Routes 53 and 618 (Lake Monticello Road). VDOT held a public hearing on the project in June 2017 and plans to authorize right-of-way in June 2018, said Saunders. VDOT will advertise the project in November 2019 and open bids in the spring of 2020.

Construction of that roundabout may start in the late spring of 2020 and continue until the fall of 2021, Saunders said.