Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 2013

City approves dual-lane roundabout for Wakarusa Drive

November 26, 2013


Lawrence city commissioners peered into the future Tuesday night and agreed that it includes a roundabout on one of the busier streets in West Lawrence.

On a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved plans for a dual-lane roundabout — a first in the city — at Wakarusa Drive and Inverness/Legends drive. Work is expected to begin in 2014.

Commissioners agreed that the intersection doesn't currently meet the traffic volumes to require a roundabout, but a majority said they believe they can save money by building the roundabout today as part of a larger project to rebuild a portion of Wakarusa Drive.

"Right now, we don't need it, but in the future we are going to need it," City Commissioner Terry Riordan said. "If we wait to build a roundabout later that will be one of the most expensive options we have."

City engineers recommended the construction of the roundabout, but told commissioners Tuesday they could not predict when traffic volumes would warrant a roundabout for the intersection, which currently functions fine with a set of four-way stop signs, engineers said.

"I can't predict whether it will be five years or 10 years down the road when we need it," City Engineer David Cronin said. "But we are very confident this is an area where traffic volumes are going to grow."

The roundabout is expected to cost about $350,000 to install, compared to $500,000 engineers estimated for a traffic signal. But Mayor Mike Dever, who lives near the intersection, said he was convinced the intersection could function well for the foreseeable future with a system of four-way stop signs.

Public comment at Tuesday's meeting was mixed on whether commissioners should pursue the roundabout or simply repair the road and leave the four-way stop signs in place. But several commissioners said they did receive a significant amount of negative comments about the proposed roundabout prior to Tuesday's meeting.

City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer said he was among the Lawrence residents who had strong opinions against roundabouts, but he voted for the project after engineers presented data from several studies suggesting roundabouts improved both motorist and pedestrian safety.

Engineers cited studies that found a 39 percent overall decrease in crashes at intersections with roundabouts and a 90 percent reduction in injury crashes, mainly because speeds are generally slower at roundabouts and the chances of a t-bone collision are less than at a traditional intersection.

"I thought the data would support my emotional view about roundabouts, but it didn't," Farmer said. "People are going to be upset by this project, but it is safer, and that is the message we need to send."

Commissioner Mike Amyx was the lone commissioner to vote against the project. He noted the intersection only has registered seven crashes over the last three years, and none of them were injury accidents. Amyx lobbied for commissioners to do the necessary pavement improvements on Wakarusa, and to install underground conduit that could support a traffic signal when vehicle volumes warranted it.

The roundabout work and the larger project to rebuild the section of Wakarusa Drive — just south and north of the intersection — are scheduled to take place in the summer and fall of 2014.

In other news, commissioners:

• Unanimously approved year-end longevity payments to city employees who have worked for the city for five or more consecutive years. The annual program pays eligible employees $48 per year of service. The city estimates it will pay about $420,000 to 587 employees this year.

• Approved an agreement with Baker University to begin work on a wetland mitigation project to meet federal requirements related to a project to extend 31st Street between Haskell Avenue and O'Connell Road. The contract, which has a maximum value of about $61,000, will allow Baker to build and maintain about 11 acres of wetlands and riparian areas near the area where Haskell Avenue crosses the Wakarusa River.


Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

See we only have 1 commissioner with a brain and a traffic engineer without one.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

Can we get a roundabout for every intersection on Mass St between 6th and 13th? And maybe one at each crosswalk as well? Makes as much sense as the approved roundabout.

Scott Batson 4 years, 1 month ago

JN, do some research, Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit 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, 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 properly designed modern roundabouts 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 (, 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. Signals take an hour of demand and restrict it to a half hour, at best only half the traffic gets to go at any one time. At a modern roundabout four drivers entering from four directions can all enter at the same time. Don’t try that with a signalized intersection.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

Drive thru that intersection daily. 4 way stop works fine, minimal delays even at rush hour. Doesn't need either traffic signals nor roundabout at this time. Mike Amyx pointed out how few accidents occurred in last 3 years and suggested to rebuild intersection and install conduits and space for future traffic signals when needed. Makes a lot more sense than a roundabout.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

You knew that this data-addled commission would do this. This subject has been tossed around for years now and now that the new gaggle of "commissioners" has arived, we greet the new year with some new damned foolishenss in regard to these traffic obstructions.

There are three types of misrepresentation. LIes, Damned Lies, and Statistics.

Seems like "statistics" is a favorite dodge that this befulddled "commission" seems to embrace.

David Klamet 4 years, 1 month ago

The fact that they are unpopular and yet still being built says something about the will of the people and the accountability of our leaders (I use the term "leaders" loosely).

Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

Unfortunately far too many become that way. Seems being elected removes all their common sense. Could it be that business interests and C of C members provides too much pressure are responsible? Mike provided facst that in 3 years there was a total of 7 accidents, all non-injury. So now we must spend money for basically no problem.

David Klamet 4 years, 1 month ago

No one that I have talked to likes them. That may not be statistically relevant. I would like to see the numbers.

Wayne Kerr 4 years, 1 month ago

This is great news. I've been wondering what to do with my kids when it's too cold to take them to the park to play on the swings and merry go round. This time next year we'll just drive out to Wakarusa Drive and circle around for an hour or two until we've all had our fill. This is so cool, with more roundabouts we can all feel more sophisticated or even a little more European and still be living right here in Kansas

Wayne Kerr 4 years, 1 month ago

Mad? I love driving in circles, this is going to be more fun than watching Nascar.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

Seems the original purpose was to repair the roadway deterioration of Wakarusa Dr. No mention was ever made to install lights. But our brilliant city engineer wants to spend $350,000 dollars to solve a non-existent problem. Is he a believer in providing solutions for problem that don't exist?

Greg DiVilbiss 4 years, 1 month ago

I like the roundabouts that have been built in Topeka on Wanamaker and Urish, they are two lane roundabouts. They allow for traffic to keep moving, not only are they safer they are better for the environment and the longevity of your brakes. A car sitting idling is not efficient..

There is a reason that traffic engineers and municipalities are putting these in throughout the country, they make sense on every level. Less expensive, more efficient, good for the environment and much safer.

I suppose the bad news is the city will lose revenue due to not being able to ticket California rolls anymore.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 1 month ago

When traffic thins out after rush hours this roundabout will be appreciated. Keeping rush hour flowing even at a slow pace will be a sweet change.

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