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Archive for Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Editorial: Circular logic

City commissioners need to take a broad look at plans for Wakarusa Drive from Sixth Street to Bob Billings Parkway before moving ahead on one or two huge roundabouts on that stretch.

November 5, 2013

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Roundabouts and traffic calming circles have become an increasing part of the Lawrence streetscape in recent years.

Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians have gotten accustomed, for the most part, to the new traffic structures, but a proposal to place one, and probably two, huge roundabouts on Wakarusa Drive between Bob Billings Parkway and Sixth Street deserves more than cursory discussion by Lawrence city commissioners.

Commissioners are being asked to provide feedback tonight on plans to rebuild Wakarusa Drive north of Oread West Drive. As part of that project, the city staff is recommending the construction of what would be the city’s largest roundabout at the intersection of Wakarusa and Legends/Inverness Drive. Traffic at that intersection, they say, is heavy enough to warrant increased traffic control. Traffic lights would be another option for the intersection, which now is a four-way stop, but the roundabout is preferable, they say for a number of reasons.

Cost is one. They say traffic lights at the intersection would cost about $500,000, including the cost of adding left-turn lanes on Inverness and Legends. The roundabout would cost $350,000, they estimate, but that figure doesn’t include the required acquisition of property on commercial lots to the west and residential backyards to the east.

The fact that roundabouts and circles place an obstacle in the intersection does serve to reduce the speeds of motorists, but traffic officials’ claim that the structures improve traffic flow and safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians seems open to debate. This particular roundabout would involve a not-simple traffic pattern connecting single lanes of east-west traffic, with Wakarusa’s double lanes moving north and south. The squiggly signs in materials that accompany tonight’s commission agenda provide some clues about traffic flow, but the double-lane roundabout almost certainly will cause some headaches, especially for out-of-town drivers.

Another important factor on the Wakarusa plan is the footnote that IF a roundabout is constructed at Inverness/Legends Drive, another similar structure likely will be proposed later at Harvard Road, less than a half-mile to the north. That’s a lot of driving in circles in the nine blocks between Sixth Street and Bob Billings Parkway.

As noted above, Lawrence residents have grown accustomed to the increased number of traffic circles in the city, but it’s obvious that many out-of-town motorists still find them confusing. Perhaps the proposed roundabout at Wakarusa and Legends/Inverness is the best plan for the intersection, but commissioners should look carefully at all the relevant factors for the entire stretch of street from Bob Billings to Sixth Street before making their decision.

Comments

Scott Batson 5 months, 2 weeks ago

The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://tinyurl.com/6v44a3x). Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit http://tinyurl.com/iihsRAB for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Modern roundabouts, and the pedestrian refuge islands approaching them, are two of nine proven safety measures identified by the FHWA, http://tinyurl.com/7qvsaem The safety comes from the ‘slow and go’ operation instead of the ‘stop or go fast’ way a stop light works. The smaller size of the modern roundabout is what makes them safer and keeps speeds in the 20 mph range. This makes it much easier to avoid a crash or stop for pedestrians. It also means that if a crash happens the likelihood of injury is very low. Safety is the #1 reason there are over 3,000 modern roundabouts in the US today and many more on the way.
Slow and go modern roundabout intersections means less delay than a stop light or stop sign (http://tinyurl.com/mythbustersRAB), especially the other 20 hours a day people aren’t driving to or from work. Average daily delay at a signal is around 12 seconds per car. At a modern roundabout average delay is less than five seconds.

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George Lippencott 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Here is a thought on the proposed roundabout at Wakarusa and Inverness. Once again a proposal by the city that impacts us surfaces as it goes to the commissioners. Such compressed timing does limit the quality of a response.

If the article in the LJW is accurate there is really no true advantage to building a big roundabout when comparisons are made on an apples to apples basis. Looking at that intersection I cannot imagine how we could construct such a monster without taking houses unless we move Wakarusa west. Cost will be at best a wash. I think our city planners see a project such as Harvard and Monterey Way. We see an Etoile or a DuPont Circle

So in the end maybe we reduce the severity of accidents by slowing down all the traffic. Why! Is the auto insurance industry contributing to our commission races? Traffic signals are used at almost all of our other major intersection. Wakarusa is the major North-South connector at the West end of the city. Equal treatment would seem appropriate.

I have always tried to follow a number of relatively simple well used rules in life. In this case – KISS – keep it simple – stupid. A traffic signal is all we need and it is long overdue!

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Andrew Fusco 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not from Lawrence, heck I've never been to Kansas. But from a sensible urban planning standpoint, your city sure does look great from the air. I think it's great that your planners are embracing roundabouts as a form of traffic control. They are confusing to many, but over time I think the benefits outweigh the negatives when compared to stop signs are traffic lights.

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