A preliminary rendering shows the rough design for the planned roundabout at N.W. 178th Street and Meridian Avenue in Oklahoma County. (Provided)

Citing safety concerns, officials with Oklahoma County are planning to install a roundabout at N.W. 178th Street and Meridian Avenue.

The intersection has seen four substantial wrecks since December, according to County Commissioner Ray Vaughn‘s first deputy, Rick Buchanan. He said the roundabout will be a first for the county’s District 3 area.

“They’re the safest possible traffic safety devices out there,” Buchanan said. “There’s all sorts of institutional studies as to what is safest.”

KFOR has been covering public complaints about the intersection as well as Vaughn’s office’s efforts to improve the situation.

Back in September, NonDoc examined the benefits of roundabouts while also seeking explanation from experts on how to use them properly:

“I think they’re fantastic if people know how to use them,” said Mr. (Jerry) Keith (of Brown’s Driving School), who has been training young drivers for the past eight years. “You don’t have to stop, but everybody slows down in the most dangerous place there is — the intersection.”

Good news: Navigating roundabouts is pretty simple. Slow down at the roundabout and yield to traffic approaching from the left. Drive to the right around the circle until you reach the street of your destination.

“Don’t signal going in, but you signal when you get off,” Mr. Keith said. “We do not signal until we’re ready to exit, and it’s going to be a right-turn signal.”

Buchanan said the N.W. 178th and Meridian project will include a lowered speed limit, rumble strips and a traffic circle in the middle. The project is expected to cost $150,000, including the required environmental work, asphalt and acquisition of about 17 feet of right-of-way around the intersection.


Roundabouts: You spin me left-round, baby, left-round by William W. Savage III

That modest price tag in comparison to a potential four-way stop is also a plus in the mind of county officials.

“The complaints of sun glare at this intersection will make seeing future traffic signals heads and stop signs on 178th difficult to see,” said district superintendent Rick Cardwell in an email provided by Buchanan. “The cost of a signal and the additional lanes needed will be more expensive than a roundabout. Maintenance of a traffic signal is also a concern.”

Beyond just the costs of purchasing and installing traffic lights, Cardwell noted that stoplights can require pricey maintenance for reasons the public might not even consider.

“We currently deal with lightning-strike problems at the two traffic signals we maintain on (State Highway) 74 (at) Coffee Creek and Sorghum Mill (roads),” Cardwell wrote. “In the two years I have been here, the signals have been hit three times requiring replacement of the signal controllers.”

Buchanan said no fatalities have occurred at the dangerous intersection yet, but he noted that’s always the worst-case scenario.

“It’s our job to keep drivers as safe as possible with the resources we have,” he said. “We may be doing more of those (roundabouts) in District 3 as finances allow.”