LIMA — Two years and two months after its ground breaking, a $13.8 million project to add a roundabout and underpass on Elm Street in east Lima is nearing its completion date.
While the traffic circle has been open since the beginning of June, Lima City Engineer Kirk Niemeyer said he’s been working with the contractors to check off the final items on the project’s need-to-do list, such as re-ordering some traffic signs and fixing the landscaping on the surrounding terrain.
“They’re working on that list, but for the most, the project is substantially complete and open to the public,” Niemeyer said.
Reactions from residents have been generally positive. In a social media post asking for opinions on the roundabout, the majority of commenters spoke well of the change and the ease of moving through the updated intersection, although some have yet to acclimate to the new driving pattern.
Niemeyer said he’s spent some of his lunch breaks watching the traffic move through the new roundabout, and some drivers still tend to linger at the entrance instead of jumping into the flow of traffic.
Prior to installing the updated traffic circle, drivers usually had to wait at the three-way intersection of Elm, Bellefontaine and Calumet as they waited for traffic lights to give the go-ahead. The newly-constructed one-lane roundabout should help eliminate that problem by allowing 23,000 vehicles to easily move through it per day, Niemeyer said.
The completed project also allows drivers to cross under the train tracks on Elm Street in case of a stopped train.
If drivers head east on Elm after leaving the roundabout, they’ll coast under the elevated tracks and pass underneath historical artwork of a train engine similar to the artwork currently featured on the Vine Street underpass.
“The city appreciates the patience from the business owners, especially those trying to get to the hospitals — EMS, fire and police,” Niemeyer said. “I think we did a pretty good job of maintaining traffic during the project. It seemed to work out really well.”
Two decades of work
While the completed roundabout looks new today, it is far from a new project. The idea for an Elm Street underpass, or grade separation, kicked-off in the late ’90s, and over 20 years, the City of Lima has been working to secure funding to push it forward up until work began in April 2018.
For the most part, construction of the project moved smoothly except for one hiccup. When excavating the area early on, the City of Lima asked utility providers to take the necessary precautions. According to Law Director Tony Geiger, Century Link failed to do so, which delayed the expected completion date by seven months.
“We definitely will be seeking monetary damages, but the exact way about how we’re doing it is still being analyzed,” Geiger said.
Now completed, the Elm Street/Bellefontaine Avenue intersection is the second official roundabout in Allen County. Shawnee Township’s two-lane roundabout at the Fort Amanda and Shawnee roads is the first.
Niemeyer said plans are being designed for a third. Recently, the city has secured funds via state grants to reconstruct the intersection of Market and Main streets, which residents have already been incorrectly using as a roundabout. He expects public meetings to hear feedback on the updated designs to be scheduled in the fall.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.