Rockford's Roundabout: What you can expect this October - – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford's Roundabout: What you can expect this October

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PROGRAMMING NOTE: WREX will be re-airing this story Wednesday on 13 News at 10.

In October, your driving commute will change drastically if you take North Main or Auburn streets in Rockford.

City leaders say the change is for the better.  Ultimately, you'll have to decide that as drivers.

"This is an IDOT project that goes back a decade," said Rockford's Director of Public Works, Tim Hanson.  He's not exaggerating.

Even our archives show Rockford's roundabout has been a long time in the making.

One of the first times the roundabout made air was in October of 2004.  Community members were discussing the best options for how to re-do the busy intersection.

Five years later, the State of Illinois gave the plan a thumbs up.

It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed.  In that time, the roundabout went from a good idea, to nearly complete.

Hanson says the project will come to a close in October, on schedule and on budget.  That means before winter, drivers will no longer be seeing red, green or yellow for that matter.

"We're setting everything up to where we're going to probably close down that intersection within the next six weeks and put the circle in," said Hanson.

The project is unique, not just to Rockford but to the state, according to Hanson.

"It's the first two-lane roundabout in the State of Illinois."

You may have driven through something like what you'll experience in Rockford.  

While this will represent the first two-lane roundabout, some areas of the state have traffic circles which allow higher speeds, stopping points and in some cases parking.  You'll find none of those characteristics in Rockford.

"You want to make sure people are safe and the flow of traffic is moving a little better than it did before and in this case I think we've proven the fact that it will work very well," said Hanson.

Something that's not proven, driver know-how.  The Illinois Department of Transportation has a "how-to" video online to help instruct unfamiliar commuters and the City of Rockford itself will soon begin the educational process.

"Public service announcements will be coming out, there will be a lot of educating through the media," according to Hanson.

To help you, I went to East Peoria.  The city's year-old roundabout is similar to what we'll see in October but on a smaller scale.

Rockford will commute more than three cars for every one car that passes through East Peoria's roundabout.

City of east Peoria Public Works Director Steve Ferguson met with me on my trip to talk about the first year with it's new intersection.

"Traffic keeps moving at all times and the safety aspect of it is that there's no chance of a right angle or a head on collision," said Ferguson.

Hanson expects much of the same.

"It's almost hard to get into an accident unless you're really not paying attention."

While safety is priority number one, a close number two is how quickly traffic moves through the area.

"The speed with which you get through the intersection is the primary benefit," said Ferguson.

A reduction of accidents: that's a benefit.  So is driving time.  However, East Peoria has seen another benefit that went unforeseen until the roundabout was incorporated.

"So we built the infrastructure and the economic development has just been tremendous," said Ferguson.

Hotels, box stores, even a small shopping center is sprouting up around the roundabout.  Whether Rockford will see the same changes is yet to be determined.

Hanson thinks it's a good possibility and says economic growth is welcome in that area.

"It was a pretty dead corridor up to this point, I think you will see some growth in this area, I think it will spur economic development."

The roundabout is expected to be complete in October, on schedule and on budget, just more than $5 million funded by IDOT.

There are multiple resources that can help you prepare for the roundabout and understand more what is happening at North Main and Auburn streets.

Here are a few:

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