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CIRCLE MARKS THE SPOT — This slide, from a presentation given Aug. 6 about the proposed roundabout at the corner of Kepler Road and State Road 44, shows the location of the project and the surrounding neighborhood.

Plans for a complete overhaul of the busy crossing of State Road 44 and Kepler Road on DeLand’s east side are coming together.

“The project includes replacing the existing traffic signal with a new roundabout,” Nick Harrison, a consulting engineer working for the Florida Department of Transportation, told attendees at an Aug. 6 public meeting on the topic.

Transportation officials have unveiled the initial design and related improvements for the intersection, and they anticipate completing the design in the summer of 2021.

The purpose of the change from a signalized junction to a continuous-flow roundabout is safety.

“This intersection experiences a high volume of crashes and backups at the A.M. and P.M. [rush] hours,” Harrison said.

Some of the points covered at the meeting:

  • The FDOT estimates the purchase of more right of way — additional property to accommodate new lanes and space for walkways and pedestrian crossings, lighting and landscaping — will cost approximately $6 million. The cost of construction will be about $4 million. While money is set aside now for buying the right-of-way, there is no construction funding at this time, according to the FDOT.
  • To help accelerate the project, Volusia County has given $3.9 million to FDOT for buying right-of-way property. Some land has already been donated to the state agency for the roundabout. The owners of a 7-Eleven now under construction on the southwest corner of the intersection and an animal hospital to be built on the southeast corner have ceded property for the project.
  • As for when construction may begin, Harrison said the project may start in late 2023 or early 2024.
  • FDOT statistics show there were 81 accidents in or near the intersection between 2011 and 2015. Volusia County Engineer Tadd Kasbeer said his office has recorded 106 crashes between August 2016 and thus far for August 2020. None of those accidents, he added, were fatal, but some did result “in incapacitating injuries.”
  • The accidents, he said, include a number of rear-end collisions related to changes in traffic flow, such as a signal change or a sudden slowdown. “These problems are only going to get worse,” Harrison said, noting the new development taking place in the area, including Cresswind DeLand.
  • The roundabout will lessen the numbers of accidents and their severity, Harrison said, especially angle crashes and T-bone collisions, in which one vehicle hits the broad side of another. In addition, “the possibility for vehicles to come at higher speeds is eliminated,” he continued.
  • For the duration of the construction, Harrison said, the intersection will be kept open, despite the difficulties of working while traffic is passing through the construction zone.