By Robert Tomlinson
CENTREVILLE — The intersection of Lutz Road and Centreville-Constantine Road is one of the biggest rural intersections in St. Joseph County, but it soon could receive a major makeover.
In a public hearing Wednesday, March 15, the St. Joseph County Road Commission outlined its plans to put a roundabout at the intersection in 2024 in front of a meeting room packed with local residents.
The proposed roundabout would be a 130-foot inscribed circle diameter roundabout, with islands at approaches that direct traffic in the proper direction, and exits onto both Lutz and Centreville-Constantine Road. Traffic lanes would be 20 feet wide, with a 12-foot inside lane and rollable curb meant for large equipment and semis to use the roundabout.
Construction costs of the roundabout are approximately $500,000, with $450,000 of it covered by a competitive High Risk Rural Road (HRRR) grant from the state, which can only be used on the roundabout project. The Road Commission would cover the remaining $50,000 of construction costs, as well as the $60,000 estimated engineering costs and $10,000 for lighting.
Once completed, it would be just the second roundabout in St. Joseph County, following the construction of the Colon Road/Farrand Road roundabout back in 2020 in Colon Township.
In a presentation to those in attendance, Road Commission Engineer Garrett Myland laid out the history and reasoning behind putting a roundabout at the intersection. According to traffic counts, the intersection gets 5,562 vehicles per day, with just over 500 of them commercial vehicles. From 2017-21, there were nine total crashes at the intersection, which ranked fourth among intersections serviced by the county, and 50th out of 1,112 total intersections in the county. Only one of the crashes had an incapacitating injury, while another one had regular injuries reported.
The Road Commission applied for the HRRR grant back in March of 2022, and of the 33 projects applied for by road commissions throughout the state, just 19 were selected, with the Lutz Road/Centreville-Constantine Road roundabout ranking fifth out of those projects. (The widening of Lutz Road from Fairchild Road to Roys Road, which was discussed in a public hearing in February, ranked third.)
According to data in the presentation from an MDOT roundabout guidance document, roundabouts have reduced overall crashes by 40 percent, with injury crashes reduced by 75 percent and serious injury/fatal crashes reduced by 90 percent. This, Myland said, is because roundabouts typically have reduced speeds and reduce conflict points where crashes can happen, such as left-turn, head-on crashes and angle crashes.
Sight problems at the intersection of Lutz and Centreville-Constantine were another reason Myland said a roundabout was considered.
“If you’re coming down Centreville-Constantine and you pull up to the intersection, there is a way to see if vehicles are coming – you have to pull all the way up and turn your car to be able to see things that are coming, because of the weird angle that it’s at,” Myland said. “If you stop at the stop sign and try to see what’s coming, all you’re going to see right now is bushes. You’re not going to see if a vehicle is going 50 miles per hour and plowing through there and you have no idea it’s coming.”
Those same sight issues are a problem coming down Lutz Road as well, Myland said.
“If you’re going up Lutz Road, you can look down Lutz Road, that’s fine, you can look up Centreville-Constantine, that’s fine, but you try to take a look left, and the big thing is you see bushes. You can’t see vehicles that are coming from that direction, too,” Myland said.
Myland compared the roundabout to the previous roundabout at Colon Road and Farrand Road, saying that there have not been any vehicle-to-vehicle crashes at the intersection since 2019, the year before the roundabout was installed. Previously, that intersection would receive a few crashes per year.
Myland also addressed concerns about whether or not unique vehicles, large vehicles and farm equipment would be able to use the intersection. He said horses and buggies had no issues with the Colon/Farrand roundabout, school buses have not had issues, emergency vehicles haven’t had issues, and that large farm equipment haven’t had many issues, however there was one issue regarding sign placement that would be addressed with the Lutz/Centreville-Constantine roundabout. In total, there will be an approximately 34-1/2-foot driving surface for larger vehicles in the new roundabout.
The final design of the roundabout would also attempt to address water issues around the area, with a drop curb to release water at two points in the roundabout. However, other areas of concern were also addressed with the final design, according to Myland.
“We look at drainage, we look at where the swing radiuses of semis are, we look at large vehicles, we look at driveways down here,” Myland said. “There’s a 2 percent slope going in all directions to get the water to drain out, and there’s two sides with a catch area where water can sit and pool, so we just have a curb area where we drop it down to let water out of that section.”
The roundabout is one of many projects happening on Lutz Road in the next few years, in an effort to widen Lutz Road to accommodate the traffic it receives. A project to widen the road from M-86 to Fairchild Road is happening this year, with the end goal in the future being to widen the road all the way to U.S. 12.
Multiple citizens spoke during the public hearing sharing their thoughts on the roundabout, with mixed approval and opposition to the plan. Many of the comments had to do with speeding issues on Lutz Road and the effect the roundabout will have on other roads, such as Constantine Road, as people may use those as detour routes during construction or as alternative routes to avoid the roundabout once it’s built. Myland said they would monitor volume on Constantine Road during the construction period for wear and tear on the newly-paved road, and Road Commission Manager John Lindsey added that he didn’t see how the roundabout would increase traffic volume on Lutz/Centreville-Constantine.
Other concerns brought up involved other intersections along Lutz Road, such as the intersections at Featherstone Road and Dickinson Road, and why money wasn’t being used at those intersections. Some residents asked to see crash statistics on those intersections as well. Lindsey explained why the roundabout took priority over those other intersections.
“We’re trying to get ahead of this [intersection]. Do we have other concerns all over the county? We do, and we’re constantly addressing them with either rumble strips, LED lights, all the tools we’ve got in our bag,” Lindsey said. “This one fit the HRRR grant profile of a way we can fix this one. We can’t just pick this money up and take it to a different intersection. It won’t qualify for different reasons; it’s government.”
Some of the positive comments came from a resident who survived a crash at the intersection, as well as comments from people in the Colon area who were appreciative of the roundabout in Colon and supportive of the new one. One resident comment mentioned the Colon/Farrand roundabout has helped with the flow of traffic through the intersection since it was installed, even though the “last thing we wanted” at the time was a roundabout. Lindsey also read a comment from Colon Township Supervisor Sandy Jackson expressing how much the roundabout in Colon has been a benefit, and supporting the new roundabout at Lutz/Centreville-Constantine.
Board Chair Eric Shafer thanked those for coming to the public hearing, while Lindsey and Myland encouraged those with questions and concerns to contact the road commission.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Replies to “Roundabout coming to major rural intersection?
Road Commission outlines plans for roundabout at Lutz/Centreville-Constantine intersection”
This is about one of the stupidest things this county has done. Nobody yields it roundabouts and think they own the whole thing. If anything put a damn red light in there.
I happen to be the homeowner just to the south of the intersection. I will be losing a fair amount of my yard. But my biggest concern is placement of my driveway. The current plans have my driveway right in front of a lane divider island. This will prevent me from turning left from my driveway.
Having grown up on Lutz Rd, just south of this intersection, I understand the need for a change there. However in my opinion, the next intersection south at Featherstone and Lutz is equal or perhaps worse than Lutz and C-C, will this roundabout help there? There have been some catastrophic accidents there, for many, many years.
So basically for the money spent, per MDOT, it will decrease the number of accidents by about 50% +/-. For an intersection that only had 1 serious injury accident I don’t think the savings are enough. I can think of a number of intersections that are blind that might be helped but for the most part roundabouts just confuse people. I also am having a hard time with those traffic numbers. And if you can’t see around the bushes isn’t that what the road department supposed to do?
That intersection (Lutz/Constantine-Centreville) is a FOUR way stop. I see no need for a roundabout there. We could use one at Featherstone/Lutz or Dickinson/Lutz or even Mintdale/Lutz that are only two way stops and actually people have died in accidents at those intersections. A roundabout would slow traffic on Lutz, which would be great. Lutz is a super highway now at high speeds. I’ve lived in this area for 45 years.