Neighbors, Family of Crash Victim React to Planned Blair Twp. Roundabout

The state is rebuilding a notoriously dangerous Northern Michigan intersection to prevent more injuries and deaths.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning a roundabout in at M-37 and Blair Town Hall Road in Blair Township. They will also extend a left turn lane from M-37 to Vance Road.

MDOT says there have been 28 crashes at M-37 and Blair Town Hall road since 2013. Of those, eight people were injured and one person has been killed.

The state says their plan would help alleviate traffic flow issues that can lead to accidents.

In a release, the state says “center left-turn lanes have been shown to be effective in allowing a safe area for turning vehicles to await a safe gap in traffic to complete a left-hand turn, while allowing through-traffic to proceed. Roundabouts help prevent severe crashes that often result in injuries or fatalities, while allowing better traffic flow than with a traffic signal.”

One local family knows the perils of that intersection all too well. It’s where 17 year old Kelsey Purchase died four years ago. She was driving to the Northwestern Michigan Fair with her friend when the car was hit.

Her mother, Julie, says a roundabout could have prevented the awful tragedy.

“He would have been in a car in a roundabout where he could drive around and that would have never ever happened,” said Julie Purchase. “Ultimately that day was for Kelsey and maybe it was to prevent somebody else for going through that same tragic day. Maybe it was to put a roundabout in that spot.

Nearby neighbors have mixed reactions to the idea.

“Early mornings, and that, and the afternoons, like I was saying is busy, getting off of Blair Town Hall would help around [Northwestern Michigan Fair Season]. I think it would help just to keep traffic moving,” said Patrick Hall, who works near the intersection.

Susan Cavendish lives near the intersection and says she hates roundabouts. She grew up in England and says they caused problems.

“Roundabouts there could be a total nightmare, they can get clogged up with traffic,” said Cavendish.

Julie Purchase just wants a solution and it upsets her when people say it may not work.

“It upsets me that some people say it’s not going to help. For me, I want to say I hope it does because I don’t want any other family to experience what our family or what our community has experienced by losing somebody too soon,” said Purchase.

MDOT plans to install the roundabout in 2021.