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Archive for Thursday, January 6, 2005

Stop, look, listen

City officials need to stop and listen to the many valid objections to the spread of traffic circles and roundabouts in Lawrence.

January 6, 2005

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Finally, someone in city government is willing to slow down and reconsider city transportation officials' love affair with the roundabout.

Although Lawrence city commissioners already had approved construction of a roundabout at the intersection of 19th and Louisiana streets, Mayor Mike Rundle asked the commission this week to reconsider its decision. His concerns were based largely on the fact that the project had never been reviewed by the city's Traffic Safety Commission. It also was noted at a joint meeting of city, county and school officials on Monday that Lawrence school board members hadn't been consulted about the project even though Lawrence High School sits at the intersection.

Roundabouts and their smaller cousins, the traffic-calming circles, seem to be the remedy to every traffic issue in Lawrence. They are supposed to slow traffic, to move traffic more smoothly through an intersection, to provide an obstacle that will force drivers who wouldn't stop at a stop sign to at least slow down.

What is the problem they are trying to solve at 19th and Louisiana? The intersection already is controlled by traffic lights; drivers have to stop, and left-turn lanes ease the flow of traffic.

And is whatever problem they are trying to solve more important than the new problems that would be created by a roundabout at that location? There seems to be huge potential for traffic backups, for instance, after a Kansas University basketball or football game. Have KU officials been consulted? School board members are concerned about the problems school buses may have in negotiating the roundabout turns.

And what about the heavy pedestrian traffic created by students walking to the high school? Many motorists don't even yield properly to other vehicles in roundabouts, let alone to pedestrians. And if they do yield to pedestrians, it will further confuse the merging of traffic into the roundabout.

For some reason, city officials appear to be deaf to the considerable public displeasure over roundabouts. It's true that the opposition isn't unanimous, but rather than blindly pursuing additional roundabouts and traffic-calming circles, city officials should turn their attention to alternative remedies for the sometimes-legitimate concerns of neighborhood residents.

Maybe the 19th and Louisiana intersection can get the ball rolling away from automatic acceptance of the expensive and inconvenient roundabout craze. As Rundle noted this week, the city was about to move forward on a $250,000 project on an intersection that hadn't even made it onto the city's top 10 list of intersections most in need of improvement.

It's just not a good use of taxpayers' money.

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