Safety measures added to Whitehead Road roundabout

Aiming to reduce the number of crashes at the Whitehead Road roundabout, Lawrence Township officials have installed reflectors around the perimeter of the roundabout and set up an electronic message board to alert motorists of its presence.LEA KAHN/STAFF
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Aiming to reduce the number of crashes at the Whitehead Road roundabout, Lawrence Township officials have installed reflectors around the perimeter of the roundabout and set up an electronic message board to alert motorists of its presence.LEA KAHN/STAFF

Aiming to reduce the number of crashes at the Whitehead Road roundabout, Lawrence Township officials have installed reflectors around the perimeter of the roundabout and set up an electronic message board to alert motorists of its presence.

The electronic messaging board, set up in the grass median on Brunswick Pike north of the roundabout, advises southbound motorists of the roundabout’s presence 500 feet away. It advises them to slow down and to yield to the left for cars already in the roundabout.

A permanent advisory sign will be installed later.

The reflectors reinforce the outline of the roundabout at night. They will remain in place until wind turbine sculptures are installed in the roundabout as part of the overall Brunswick Pike streetscape improvement project.

The messaging boards and reflectors, along with soon-to-be-installed solar-powered flashing yield signs, grew out of recommendations by the Whitehead Road Roundabout Task Force, said Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski.

The Whitehead Road roundabout – and its perceived safety or lack thereof – has been the subject of many posts on Lawrence Township community Facebook pages.

One of the most recent Facebook discussions focused on a crash in which a motorist drove through the roundabout, over an embankment, across a parking lot and into the side of a building, Nerwinski said.

“Although there are motor vehicle crashes all over our community, the only crashes that are seemingly posted on community Facebook pages are the ones that happen at this controversial roundabout,” Nerwinski said.

Those comments add to the deeper perception of the roundabout being dangerous. Even considering the number of motorists who successfully navigate through it each day, crashes are the only incidents that matter, he said.

“Clearly, there are too many crashes at this location,” Nerwinski said.

Between Jan. 1, 2018, and April 16, 2021, there were 62 crashes at the Whitehead Road roundabout – including eight crashes involving motorists who drove over the roundabout, according to the Lawrence Township Police Department.

Lawrence Township Police Department records show that of the 62 crashes, 40 occurred during the day and 22 took place at night. Overall, 10 of the 62 crashes resulted in injuries to motorists or their passengers.

Records also showed that 26 crashes involved motorists who were driving south on Brunswick Pike when they entered the roundabout, and 21 involved motorists who entered it from Whitehead Road. Seven involved motorists who were driving north on Brunswick Pike as they entered it.

The Lawrence Township Police Department is increasing its traffic enforcement efforts in the area, Nerwinski said. Township officials will continue to study other options to increase the safety for all motorists, he said.

Nerwinski ruled out ripping up the roundabout and returning to the traffic light-controlled T-intersection at Whitehead Road and Brunswick Pike. It would cost millions of Lawrence taxpayer dollars to do so, and there would not be any state or federal funding for it because of the lack of objective data to support it, he said.

A return to the T-intersection also would be a return to high-speed crashes with more serious injuries and fatalities, he said. Before the T-intersection was removed, motorists would speed to beat the traffic light before it turned red.

“We will not regress back to the time of traffic congestion, lines of cars at the traffic light and more serious crashes, and pay for it with our tax money. That is something I will never support,” Nerwinski said.