Before city commissioners agree to build the largest and busiest roundabout in the city, they first want to hear how large roundabouts are working in Topeka and Johnson County.
On Tuesday night, they certainly got an earful about how several Lawrence residents think a proposed roundabout on Wakarusa Drive at Inverness/Legends Drive will work.
"A two-lane roundabout would be a nightmare," said Alan Cowles, a resident of the West Lawrence neighborhood told commissioners.
The city is budgeted to spend about $2.3 million to rebuild a portion of Wakarusa Drive next summer, and city engineers are recommending the project include the city's first dual lane roundabout at the intersection. Engineers told commissioners at their weekly meeting that the roundabout — the first dual-lane roundabout in the city — would improve vehicle and pedestrian safety compared to a traditional traffic signal or the intersection's current set of four-way stop signs.
Commissioners stopped short of approving the proposed roundabouts. Instead they directed staff members to gather information from Topeka and from Johnson County on how large, dual-lane roundabouts work in those communities.
"It is interesting to me that to the east and the west of us they are both doing this," City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. "Maybe we can learn something from them."
Commissioners plan to hear the issue again at their Nov. 26 meeting.
Commissioners heard from more than a half-dozen residents, and the majority either opposed the roundabout or were uncertain whether traffic volumes at the intersection justified the estimated $350,000 price tag for a roundabout.
Angela Heili showed commissioners pictures of broken curbs and landscaping at current Lawrence roundabouts that have been damaged as motorists have failed to properly navigate the turns.
"We have to do more to educate to people about how to use these," said Heili, who urged the commission to hold off on the roundabout project. "They look cruddy when people run over them. And they take forever to get through them because people don't know how to use them properly."
Engineers told commissioners that they believe the larger size of the roundabout will make it easier for motorists to navigate than many of the existing roundabouts in the city.
Commissioners also heard some public support for the idea.
"I'm an unabashed fan of roundabouts," Lawrence resident Michael Almon said. "It all comes down to the design. The one at 19th and Barker is fabulous. The one at Monterrey Way and Harvard is horrible."
In other news, commissioners:
• Unanimously approved a pair of rezoning requests that will allow for a nine-lot single family development and a small industrial area for a woodworking shop at 1146 Haskell Ave.
• Approved an annexation and rezoning for 9.8 acres of property just east of the site for a proposed Menards store near 31st and Iowa. The property, known as the Snodgrass property, has been sold to Menards, which plans to incorporate it into the shopping center that will house the home improvement retailer and other tenants. Commissioners approved the annexation and the commercial rezoning on a 4-1 vote, with Schumm opposed.