Peanut Roundabout Cracks Traffic Safety Challenge

A specialized roundabout is coming to Beech Grove, Indiana—GAI’s Brian Craig, PE discusses how it will help improve safety and mobility.

As roundabouts become more and more popular in U.S. traffic engineering design, creative variations on the intersection approach are coming into play to manage challenging road configurations. One example is the ‘peanut roundabout,’ like the design that recently received federal funding for construction in Beech Grove, Indiana.

Innovative Solution to Unique Challenge

“The situation in Beech Grove has two closely placed, offset intersections where nearby streets cross a highly traveled, skewed road,” said GAI’s Brian Craig, PE, who is project manager for the peanut roundabout project at the intersection of Beech Grove’s Churchman and Perkins Avenues. “A high incidence of crashes had shown the intersection to be unsafe—and we scoped a roundabout solution that would fit the challenging configuration and helped the city develop a funding application to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO).”

Beech Grove
Image © Google, DigitalGlobe

Churchman Avenue is a busy free-flow thoroughfare that, at the project site, has seen numerous crashes as vehicles from intersecting Perkins and Southern Avenues try to cross or enter the traffic flow. “I grew up in that area, and I can remember hearing the sounds of crashes when I was outside in my yard,” said Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley. “This set of intersections has been bad for a long time and it seems to be getting worse—so we’re going to take some corrective action.”

“The section of road we’re working on can be pictured as two triangles coming together in a somewhat skewed way—with an extra crossing street added in just to make things especially challenging,” said Craig. The peanut roundabout offers a solution that accommodates the existing geometry without re-aligning the streets and slows and regulates vehicle motion through the non-standard road layout.

Peanut Roundabout Calms Traffic & Keeps It Flowing

“Our design for the project will basically consist of two standard roundabouts merged together with a connecting middle section, with a portion of a roundabout on either end of the two skewed intersections,” said Craig. Rounded at each end and slimmer through its connected middle portion, the design takes on its signature peanut shape.

Peanut Roundabout

“This peanut roundabout is basically a calming feature,” said Craig. “It causes vehicles from all entry points to slow down and yield to traffic already in the roundabout—and while traffic is in effect slowed somewhat, the design also works to maintain traffic mobility.”

Roundabouts have been shown to increase vehicle capacity, reduce accidents, and improve overall intersection operations. “There’s nothing wrong with stepping out of the box and considering new designs,” said Mayor Buckley. “What I wanted to do is slow the traffic way down … and I think this approach hits it head on.”

Newscast Video

In this WISH News 8 report, Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley addresses the safety challenges that spurred the city to seek funding for a peanut roundabout road-improvement project at the intersection of Churchman and Perkins Avenues.

Helping Secure Project Funding

GAI helped Beech Grove qualify for more than $1 million funding for the peanut roundabout project.

In addition to providing the design work for the peanut intersection, GAI specialists performed a safety audit in cooperation with local law enforcement that helped Beech Grove secure more than $1 million in funding for the project provided through the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HISP) and distributed by the Indianapolis MPO.

“As you can imagine, there is a considerable amount of paperwork involved in seeking government funding,” said Craig. “Preparing a solid application that incorporated all the required supporting analysis we collected was a major step in making the project possible for Beech Grove.”

Collaboration Makes Peanut Roundabout a Reality

“We’ve seen a range of in-house expertise come together on this project,” said Craig. “There are contributors on the GAI staff like Jay Vorisek who has worked on upwards of 85 roundabouts in Indiana—and we’re pretty fortunate to be able to offer Beech Grove support for the project’s planning, analysis, and funding stages clear through to survey, design, and construction. The peanut roundabout is going to have a really positive impact on this community’s road safety, and it’s gratifying to play a leading role in helping it happen.” Mayor Buckley has a similar optimistic impression: “I think they’ve done very well,” he said. “I look forward to what the project is going to bring to the area.”

Read more about GAI’s work with roundabouts and other intersection solutions:

Contact Brian Craig, PE, 812.226.0951, for more information about roundabouts and GAI’s project funding support and transportation and traffic engineering services.

Brian Craig, PEBrian Craig, PE has extensive engineering design and project management experience in various disciplines of transportation and civil engineering projects. He has designed and managed numerous INDOT and LPA projects, and is skilled in roadway design, maintenance of traffic (MOT), erosion control, signing, intelligent transportation systems, geotechnical, utility coordination, and managing budgets.

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