State considers roundabout for Belden Hill Road

Bryan Haeffele photos
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has identified the four-way intersection of Belden Hill Road and Wolfpit Road as a possible candidate for a modern roundabout,  according to Wilton Police Capt. Robert Cipolla.

The state identified this area because of high crash frequency over the last three years, with 19 accidents, three of which resulted in injuries, Cipolla said in a presentation to the Board of Selectmen on April 2.

“That’s how it came on their radar, for a modern roundabout,” he said.

The majority were angled crashes, which he said can cause the most severe injuries.

This is not the first time the DOT has focused on the intersection. In 1996, the DOT identified it as a candidate for signalization, but Cipolla said then First Selectman Bob Russell wanted a focus instead on widening Route 7. Congestion and traffic volume were the issues at the time, Cipolla said.

“Fast forward to today and we have a safety issue with collisions,” he said.

Cipolla said the DOT is aware of only seven modern roundabouts in the state. “In terms of benefits, it would reduce congestion, reduce emissions by not having cars idling at a stop sign, and it would significantly reduce head-on and T-bone collisions, which are most severe in injuries.”

The DOT analyzed the intersection from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and found that a total of 7,043 cars pass through. The morning peak is from 8 to 9, with 1,480 cars, and the afternoon peak is 5 to 6, with just under 1,400 passing through.

“There is still high volume during those peak hours, coupled with a high frequency of collisions, and the DOT believes a modern roundabout can be a solution at that intersection,” he said.

There would be some impact on property acquisitions, he said.

There is a difference between a modern roundabout and a traditional traffic rotary, he said. One difference is more design, like raised islands that force the vehicles to bear to the right to enter.

Cipolla said the DOT met with police last week, and wants to have a public information session on what it would look like, in concept, and what the benefits would be.

The selectmen gave him approval to pursue setting up a meeting.

Chris Burney, the town’s public works director, said he hasn’t seen the design standards for the roundabout, but is certain that if it has granite curbs it will survive impact from snowplows.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said she frequently gets complaints from the public about this intersection.

DOT officials said at this point, no official project has been initiated, therefore there is no funding source or schedule available. Given the existing fiscal environment, should the concept be well received and the DOT initiate a project, it will still need to be prioritized against all other active projects. The current estimate for the project is is $2.5 million.