Chat about road construction, roundabouts with Traffic Engineer David Woosley

October 3, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

David E. Woosley

David Woosley has long served as the city's traffic engineer. He can talk about roundabouts, the reconstruction of Kasold Drive or any other topic affecting your daily commute across town.


Good afternoon. This is Dennis Anderson, managing editor of the Lawrence Journal-World. I will be moderating today's online chat with city Traffic Engineer David Woosley. Welcome, David.

David E. Woosley:

Thanks Dennis, it's a pleasure to be here.


Why are there so few right turn lanes in Lawrence, especially at major intersections (Clinton/Kasold, 23rd/Louisiana, Bob Billings/Kasold, Bob Billings/Iowa, etc.) ? I have to believe this would drastically reduce traffic as drivers turning right would not extend traffic lines at red lights, forcing people to wait through several red lights before getting through.

David E. Woosley:

At the time many of these areas were developed, right turn lanes were not all that common. To go back and retrofit can be very expensive and sometimes impossible with existing development. At new intersections and where reconstruction is done we try to provide these lanes when feasible.


We have several questions about roundabouts. Here goes.


Are future roundabouts going to be larger than the current ones, for instance the intersection of Harvard & Monterway Way? Over the summer I spent a great deal of time in England where the roundabouts seemed to be larger, although I did not stop to measure them.

David E. Woosley:

Harvard & Monterey Way was the city's first roundbout. Since it was a retrofit, there were constraints on the size such as the park on the southeast corner and existing development on the west and northeast corners. The newer roundabouts are quite a bit larger in new developments because we can get the right-of-way needed. Each location is designed independently depending on expected future traffic volumes, the terrain, etc.


What's the point of the roundabouts? They are made way to small (example on Harvard between Monterey and Wakarusa). Not only have I watched full sized pickup trucks bounding over the curbs, but trash trucks and fire trucks. On top of that, no one yields at those roundabouts. Now, the centers of those roundabouts have evergreen trees and other vegetation that hinders your view of the cars approaching or are in the ridiculously small roundabouts.
Our neighborhood streest are so narrow, that allowing cars to park on the street, create a hugh hazzard to drivers and pedestrians alike. If you want to control the flow of traffic, quite trying to bottleneck the streets. Have more police patrols on streets that have speeding problems, not speed humps or roundabouts. Make roads like 6th, 9th, 15th, 23rd, Iowa, Kasold, and Wakarusa large boulavards with 2 lanes each for flowing traffic in each direction and actual turn lanes for left and right hand turns NOT a "sucide" lane in the middle. Face it, Lawrence is a big city now. Trying to keep it small is going to keep pissing off the residents and more will keep moving out of Lawrence.

David E. Woosley:

The purpose of roundabouts is to manage traffic at an intersecton. Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Kansas State University have shown that they are much safer than conventional intersections and in many cases can handle more traffic than a traffic signal.


Does money for roundabouts come from the same budget as sidewalk repair or other city road improvements? And how much does it cost to maintain the landscaping on roundabouts?

David E. Woosley:

The roundabouts that the city has constructed have mainly been financed as a Capital Improvements Project which is not part of sidewalk or street maintenance funds; some have been constructed at developer expense in newly developing areas. The landscaping is maintained by the Parks & Recreation Department; I can't answer what that costs.


Has the general public's reaction to the roundabouts installed in Lawrence been positive enough to warrant more?

David E. Woosley:

Roundabouts, just like most other things that are new are controversial. We haven't done a scientific study in Lawrence, but most communities that have, have found that a majority of the public likes them after they have been in place for a while and they get used to them. One of the advantages of roundabouts is their safety aspect when compared to traffic signals, and that alone makes them something to be considered.


The intersection at Kasold and Harvard is extremely difficult to navigate. It's a four-way stop that could be better served with a roundabout instead of its current mess. Any chance in seeing a roundabout at this intersection?

David E. Woosley:

There is always a chance; however, since that intersection is fully developed on all four corners, it would be very difficult to retrofit without substantial property acquisition, possibly even requiring the removal of a house.


One last roundabout question. I promise.


Is it true that we will have a roundabout at Kasold and Tillerman, and another one just north at Kasold and Grand Vista? If so, how in the world is this going to work? These are not 4-way intersections.

David E. Woosley:

Yes, there will be roundabouts on Kasold at Tillerman and at Grand Vista. An intersection does not have to have four legs for a roundabout to work. One of the first ones in town was at 24th Place and Crossgate which is a "T" intersection. The one at 28th & O'Connell is also a "T" right now until the property to the east is developed, as well as the one on Overland at Congressional. A roundabout can operate well with 3, 4, 5 or even sometimes 6 legs.


It is rather obvious that completion of the SLT is many years best. Why not spend some bucks and improve 31st with turn lanes and traffic signals (NOT roundabouts). Traffic is horrible at the Louisanna and Haskell intersections.

David E. Woosley:

The city and the county have has some discussions about what improvements might be possible; however, any substantial improvements would be expensive and both levels of government try to make sure that investments of that type will be useful for their estimated life. Otherwise, the public's money would not be well spent.


Why does Lawrence insist on using sand in the winter time to remove ice? It is too dangerous and ice-removing salt would be a much safer alternative. When the sand is layed out, it does not melt the ice and the sand is left to create a much bigger slip hazard. Salt may be more costly, but isn't it worth it for safer driving?

David E. Woosley:

Snow and ice control and removal is performed by the Street Maintenance Division, so I am unable to answer that question. Sorry.


How can you reduce the risks with the 'suicide lane' on 23rd street ('suicide lane' is the middle turning lane)? Would you consider restricting left turns on and off 23rd?

David E. Woosley:

Some of the blocks along 23rd Street have some of the highest number of crashes annually. However, it would be very difficult to restrict left-turns because of the number of driveways along 23rd Street, without construction of a barrier median that would prohibit them at all times. Unfortunately, this would cause access problems for many of the businesses along that stretch of roadway which were developed under very different traffic conditions and would be very difficult to retrofit.


Is the rebuilt section of Kasold Drive narrower than the previous road it replaces?

David E. Woosley:

That question would best be answered by the public works director, but I believe that the traffic lanes are slightly narrower and the median is narrower in some areas in order to provide off-street facilites for pedestrians and bicylists.


Who do you call if your road needs repaired?

David E. Woosley:

The Street Maintenance Division of the Public Works Department is responsible for road repairs.


How long will the bridge over the Kansas Turnpike on Kasold Drive, north of Peterson Road, be closed?

David E. Woosley:

My division is not involved with that project; again, I would refer you to the public works director.


What roads in town have synchronized signals?

David E. Woosley:

6th Street, 23rd Street, Clinton Parkway, and Iowa Street are coordinated during most times of the day; however, the timing is based on historial traffic counts, not real-time, since we do not currently have that capability.


What types of Intelligent Transportation Systems does lawrence use, or what do you think we could use?


the new intersection at Kasold and Peterson has two lanes going North, yet it quickly reduces to one lane past the new light. Are you concerned about two cars (going 40mph) having to merge that quickly?

David E. Woosley:

All of our traffic signals are currently equipped with Emergency Vehicle Preemption which changes the signal to green for fire trucks and ambulances. Other systems that would be helpful would be wired or radio communications between the signals and our main office and cameras where major intersections could be viewed from the office.

David E. Woosley:

Since the intersection project finished before the roadway project north of the intersection is ready to start, and there is not sufficient area to shutdown one of the lanes at the prevailing speed of traffic, we plan on keeing the signal flashing red in all four directions, in reality a four-way stop, until the north leg of the intersection is closed for construction.


Does the fact that everyone in town seems to be a traffic engineer ever make your job difficult?

David E. Woosley:

Very few things seem to be easy anymore, but it never gets boring; that is one of the things that attracts me to this professtion


Well, we are out of time. I want to thank all of you who asked questions. We had a lot of them and couldn't get them all answered. Sorry, maybe David can come back another time. I also want to thanks David for his time and answers.

David E. Woosley:

Thanks again Dennis for inviting me to participate; and I want to thank everyone that took the time to submit a question. Anyone with questions in the future about traffic engineering in Lawrence can contact us at


hipper_than_hip 11 years, 7 months ago

Three roundabouts on Kasold from Peterson to the KTA bridge, which is about 6/10th's of a mile. I'm no traffic engineer, but roundabouts every +/-1000' seems excessive.

How do we get a moritorium on roundabouts? Is there anyone in the city government who listens to what the citizens say about how traffic is controlled?

Becca 11 years, 7 months ago

I personally think the roundabouts are pointless. But then again, I don't drive so I don't have to worry about it.

Richard Ballard 11 years, 7 months ago

The Hastings parking lot at 23rd. & Iowa has become a De facto Bypass to miss the stoplights at 23rd. & Iowa.

Last week, I was heading west on 23rd. when a guy cut across traffic right in front of me and went in the Hastings parking lot via the south-east driveway. By the time I got around the curve and onto northbound Iowa, he came out of the west driveway by CiCi's right in front of me and cut across traffic again.

As I was driving 35 - 40 MPH, he had to be doing more then that through the parking lot to stay ahead of me!

Then again, a couple of weeks ago, I had to jerk my wife out of the way as we were walking back to our car from shopping at Hastings. That car was going at least 35 MPH as he cut through the parking lot.

Can't the police enforce some law to stop this, before someone gets killed?


kmat 11 years, 7 months ago

I've never been fond of the roundabouts, but after the wreck I almost saw happen this last weekend, I want them all removed. Some people approach them and are scared to death and don't know what to do, others rip through them without caring if anyone else is there. They almost had a major pile up at 19th and Barker that I can pretty safely say would have caused multiple, serious injuries. One guy almost plowed a couple cars because he didn't care about the right of way. From now on, I will avoid that roundabout like the plague.

If they are going to install these stupid things, then they need to educate people about the rules of use. Since many people seem to be clueless or just stupid, they need to keep cops near them to issue tickets to those who's brains can't comprehend the basic rules of right of way.

Another solution is to make people actually take their drivers license test, without the cheat book they give you, and specifically ask questions about right of way at roundabouts. I've never understood how they can issue licenses to people who don't have to sit down and take a written test. Those that don't know the answers and don't care just look them up in the cheat book they send. I personally think everyone should have to take a driving test every six years to prove you do actually understand the basics. Just driving around, it's very obvious that people of all ages in KS need to learn to drive better and need to learn the rules of the road. There's a reason other states tease about Kansan's getting their driver's licenses in Cracker Jack boxes.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 7 months ago

They didn't post my last question as to what the plans are from Peterson to I-70. From what I understand, the road will remain two-lane, but the turnpike bridge will be 4-lane.

So, coming from the north, you have two-lane, then bridge (4-lane), then two lane with two roundabouts, then 2000 feet later, an intersection that turns into 4-lane.

Sounds more like a Gran Prix than a city street.

dudesmithy 11 years, 7 months ago

All the people who can't seem to understand roundabouts and how to use them must need to have their drivers licenses revoked. The approaching car clearly has YIELD signs. If they don't know what a YIELD signs stands for....they shouldn't be driving.

Enough said.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 7 months ago

I go through the roundabout at 19th and Barker several times a day. Yes, when ignorant drivers go through there, it creates problems, but no more so than ignorant drivers did when it was a 4-way stop.

And there is absolutely no doubt that traffic goes through the intersection much more smoothly and quickly than it did before. Considerably so, especially at peak traffic periods. Its purpose is clearly not "traffic calming."

I've also seen many a large vehicle go through there with no problems, although occasionally they do go over the low curb in the middle, which was designed precisely so that they could do so. I've driven a few very large box trucks through there, too, and even a non-professional driver like myself had no problems navigating it.

It's just like Woolsey said-- they are new, and until people get used to them, they'll be controversial. People like to bitch, and since they have a funny name, they are an easy target for a cheap, 4th-grade-level giggle.

Bradley Kemp 11 years, 7 months ago

"I've never been fond of the roundabouts, but after the wreck I almost saw happen this last weekend, I want them all removed. Some people approach them and are scared to death and don't know what to do, others rip through them without caring if anyone else is there."

People who don't observe the right of way are dangerous drivers. Fortunately, they're less dangerous at roundabouts than they are at four-way stops or at other similar intersections. Why? Because they're forced to violate the right of way going slower than they would be able to with other configurations. And they're traveling at a more oblique angle to the other vehicles they might hit.

Why should the cries of some citizens to nix roundabouts be heeded when they are in direct contradiction not only with scientific evidence but also with opinions of other citizens?

For intersections of particular volumes, roundabouts are safer, cheaper, and more efficient than other configurations. Whether you're fond of them or not.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 11 years, 7 months ago

The use of rotaries / roundabouts in this town is ridiculous. They should be removed. I have a friend in Cape Cod, where they have a rotary at the Buzzards Bay causeway each direction. There are a number of accidents, some fatal, that happen each year at that location. Most involve vacationers to the Cape that have never seen a rotary before. In Lawrence, where we are host to thousands of temporary residents each year that have probably never seen a rotary, you could expect that there would be problems at them. It doesn't make sense.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 7 months ago


The solution to the problem you describe is the training or removal of incompetent drivers from the streets and highways, not the removal of the best solution to many an intersection.

As someone above mentioned, the requirements for getting a drivers license in this and many other states are way to loose. That's the real problem.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 11 years, 7 months ago

Roundabouts suck. All the talk about educating drivers is great, but there are still idiots behind the wheel. I avoid 19th and Barker completely, although I used to use 19th street a lot when leaving Dillons. These stupid and yuppie contrivances is yet another item we get when we do not pay attention to local elections, we get convoluted logic, "traffic calming", which in reality is a political statement by our green-grass city government to obstruct and block vehicle traffic as much as legally possible to imanarily force us to walk two miles to the grocery store and return home with 6 bags of groceries. This is what you get with "progressive" candidates.

james bush 11 years, 7 months ago

Roundabouts are being over-prescribed. I hate them.

KsTwister 11 years, 7 months ago

When he said the money does not come out of the the money for streets and roads---he is wrong or uninformed---I have the letter from KDOT that proves taxpayers "footed' part of that bill as well as the letter from the governor saying she had them answer for me. Federal cutbacks on things like these may soon enough slow their progress, I just hope they are right.

tlinderflohman 11 years, 7 months ago

Sorry I missed this chat. Is anybody concerned about the construction project just north of 7th on New Hampshire? Seems that they are building a speed hump/crosswalk directly in front of the Journal World building. The curb they have installed reduces northbound traffic into onelane to cross over it. Hopefully this is not the case, as both of those lanes become clogged during peak driving times. I know there is a similar situation on New Hampshire where the Lawrence Arts Center is, but it is two lanes, and there are a lot of kids and families crossing from there to the parking garage. Is the city ponying up for a crosswalk that strangles traffic just so employees of the World Company do not have to go to 7th and cross the street? The public lot behind the World Company employee lot is the least used public lot downtown.

lunacydetector 11 years, 7 months ago

I have been vindicated.

Kasold is being reduced in width AFTER the city commission said they were NOT going to reduce the width.

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