Archive for Monday, December 15, 2008

Kansas Turnpike says drivers taking to new roundabout just fine

No accidents reported at new roundabout

Lawrence's newest roundabout is getting quite a workout.

December 15, 2008


A roundabout at the West Lawrence interchange of the Kansas Turnpike that opened just before Thanksgiving is going well, according to a KTA official. No accidents have been reported, but some drivers say they got confused at first

A roundabout at the West Lawrence interchange of the Kansas Turnpike that opened just before Thanksgiving is going well, according to a KTA official. No accidents have been reported, but some drivers say they got confused at first

Turnpike roundabout

Rex Fleming, project engineer for the Kansas Turnpike Authority, demonstrates using the roundabout at exit 202 while entering from the east.

It’s been a few weeks now, and officials at the Kansas Turnpike say their newest roundabout is working just fine, thank you.

Nobody’s wrecked yet, anyway.

“I haven’t heard anything about anybody going the wrong way,” said Rex Fleming, the turnpike’s project engineer. “It’s going well.”

The roundabout at the West Lawrence interchange, which is exit 202, is the first of its kind for the Kansas Turnpike Authority. It handles traffic coming into Lawrence from the east, and funnels traffic leaving town onto the turnpike toward Topeka.

The roundabout opened just before Thanksgiving, in time for one of the busiest travel times of the year, and thus far has lived up to its functional design: allowing both incoming and outgoing traffic to merge safely, at comfortable speeds, with no difficulties.

None that can be documented, at least.

“We haven’t had any accidents,” said Lisa Callahan, a spokeswoman for the turnpike authority. “But it is new, and it is different and it does take some adjusting.”

Bryan McQueen sure found that out.

McQueen, who lives near the Lawrence Holidome, noticed recently that the north side of the interchange had reopened and last week, for the first time, crossed the new bridge to head toward Topeka.

“I was so confused. I wasn’t expecting it. I did not know that they were doing that at all,” said McQueen, who makes the trip daily, as he’s performing in “Annie Warbucks” at the Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy through Dec. 21.

“I mean, I’m used to roundabouts. We have them all over town. But, just for a second, I was like … what is going on? I just didn’t realize that there would be one there.”

Neither did the driver in front of him, apparently. That vehicle was moving along at a snail’s pace before finally turning right into the roundabout and on around to the ramp leading back onto the turnpike and on toward Topeka.

No stops. No bumps. No wrecks.

“You can figure it out,” McQueen said Thursday, with a laugh. “I think we’re all going through the same thing.”

Capt. John Walters, of the Kansas Highway Patrol, said it wouldn’t be unusual for drivers to “grump” about the new roundabout, given its novelty on the turnpike. But he’s confident that drivers have negotiated the circle with ease, and will continue to do so.

“It’s working as it’s designed to work,” said Walters, who oversees troopers who patrol the turnpike.

Appropriate signs are posted along both the bridge and ramp that lead into the roundabout, preparing drivers for what lies ahead, he said. But that doesn’t mean drivers won’t turn the wrong way, brake before deciding which way to go or otherwise inappropriately use a traffic feature that’s supposed to increase efficiency and ease, not compromise it.

“It’s about like anywhere,” he said. “We can put up a lot of signs for a lot of things — warning signs, directional signs. We can have a lot of signs up, but a lot of the signs we put up people don’t see. …

“You have to look at the signs to know where you’re going.”

Ashley Anstaett, who commutes to her state government job in Topeka, doesn’t really have a problem with the roundabout. Her trip Thursday through the roundabout — her first since it opened — went just fine.

“It makes sense,” she said.

Even better, in her mind, will be the turnpike’s next roundabout, the one going in at the East Lawrence interchange, the one she uses regularly. The current arrangement at exit 204 is too tight, she said, because the current on-ramp heading toward Topeka makes it difficult to get up to “road speed” before merging into traffic.

The new roundabout and related work, expected to come in 2010, will be designed to change all that.

“I look forward to that one,” she said.


kusp8 9 years, 6 months ago

Rabble, Rabble, Rabble...but seriously, I don't like roundabouts. At least they built a skirt around the roundabout so I can hop that and actually accelerate to a safe entrance speed onto the highway.

situveux1 9 years, 6 months ago

Good night. I don't like roundabouts either, but if you just pay attention you shouldn't have any problems.

janeyb 9 years, 6 months ago

Recently in Topeka I was exiting from downtown to Croco Road and the car in front of me entered the roundabout and stopped. Good reason as an older couple was coming from Croco going the wrong way on a one-way street and entering the roundabout from the wrong direction. Those roundabouts have been there maybe 10 years? I just got the hell out of there. I don't know where they went from there.

geekin_topekan 9 years, 6 months ago

So far I have only encountered one arrogant joco who tried to cut across to save her precious self the time and the inconvenience of following the rules.She hit her brakes and jammed into reverse but not before I was able to give her the impression that I was about to slam head on into her SUV.Pretty phrickin funny.I wouldn't recommend this to the novice.I am one of only a few drivers who could have pulled this off without a hitch.

TongieMom 9 years, 6 months ago

I did see a red Jeep take the roundabout as I was exiting from I70 from the East....they did not head West...rolled around again and went down the exit ramp. Thankfully, he realized his error and flipped it around quickly.It's not a bad roundabout, but right before the West exit there should be sign to better visualize the exit.

KS 9 years, 6 months ago

toe - The same thing could happen at any of the rest areas and it hasn't. It could, but I doubt it. Some people just need to get a life. Roundabouts are here to stay. One of the best ideas to hit America since cold beer.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, yeah, yeah! Let's hear it for the JW's support of these European fads! Next there will be planned roundabouts at 23rd and Iowa, 6th and Iowa, 6th and Mass, and 23rd and Haskell. Sorry, no amount of praise from the political wonks will ever convince me that these monsters are safe. At a stop sign, you STOP, LOOK and check out any traffic. But that just won't do today when everyone has every available second of the day planned out to have someting to do or somewhere to go, everyone is in such an awful hurry to pack all they can in every available minute on the clock. That is the real reason, not safety or traffic flow. In these stopless hazards, you enter with no chance to carefully check the oncoming traffic and then take your life in your hands! Watch out for the jerk with the cell-phone and blackberry cluched in his teeth trying to navigate the road puzzle. Sorry, political action group, I will never be convinced of your blather about roundabouts. The only safe way to proceed across an intersection is the old way, stop your car, look both ways, and then proceed when it is safe to do so. And beware of the air-head with the whateverberry and the text message machine. These things are dangerous and as soon as a double pull trailer rig gets creamed out on the turnpike whirlygig I will be back.

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