Quincy eyes a roundabout for busy intersection
There were plenty of comments and ideas expressed at a public meeting held recently by the city of Quincy to inform local people about plans for a remedy of traffic congestion at 13th Avenue SW and State Route 28.
“We all know the intersection has been a problem,” said City Engineer Ariel Belino, starting up the meeting.
Local drivers have for some years experienced backups at the intersection, whether trying to turn onto SR 28 or off it and onto 13th. There are only two stop signs there, for drivers on 13th.
The meeting was arranged to inform the community that the city is doing something about the traffic congestion, Belino said. He cautioned that anything the city might want to do at the intersection or on the state highway is subject to approval by the Washington state Department of Transportation.
At the meeting, there were no designs presented of other potential changes to the intersection, such as a stoplight or additional lanes. A roundabout for the intersection seems to have been chosen because the state has authority over SR 28 and the state favors roundabouts on state routes.
Belino introduced one of the city’s consultants on the intersection, Chris Bicket, of Transportation Engineering Northwest, based in Bellevue. Bicket said he is a Quincy resident and a traffic engineer. He presented the firm’s preliminary design for a roundabout and led most of the meeting.
About 20 people attended the meeting, and many of them had questions and comments. Bill Gould, an asset engineer at Developer Services at Washington Department of Transportation, was there listening and occasionally commenting. He is managing this project at the state level. Belino, Bicket and Gould responded to questions throughout the meeting.
Bicket defended the roundabout concept from skeptics at the meeting several times. At one point, Bicket said, “I sound like a roundabout salesman, but I am actually very objective.”
Belino said the No. 1 concern for the state is safety when addressing traffic congestion solutions.
Bicket likewise promoted the safety of roundabouts, saying the types of crashes that happen in such intersections are less dangerous and cause fewer injuries. Crashes in roundabouts are more often sideswipes at low speeds rather than T-bone collisions.
Bicket also emphasized the improved safety of pedestrians at a roundabout. The design allows a pedestrian to cross one lane and reach an island, or “refuge area,” Bicket called it, before continuing on across. Pedestrians crossing a road as wide as SR 28 are exposed for a longer time.
Traffic counts and a study with forecast traffic volumes were done, Bicket said, and it was found that a roundabout operated best.
The design is for a single-lane roundabout but with two slip lanes – one at the southeast corner and one at the northwest corner. A slip lane acts like an on-ramp, Bicket said, and vehicles skip the roundabout by passing through a slip lane.
Vehicles on 13th Avenue SW northbound would be able to turn right, or east, onto SR 28, and vehicles on 13th Avenue SW southbound would be able to turn right, or west, onto SR 28 with ease. The slip lanes are 15 feet wide and should accommodate semi-trailers, Bicket said.
The roundabout is being designed for a maximum speed of 15 mph.
Evan Landin asked if the roundabout will look like the one by the airport in East Wenatchee, “The one with all the skid marks across it,” he said. The tire marks on the raised circle in the middle of the roundabout are there because of speed of eastbound vehicles approaching the intersection, Landin said.
Besides his concern about slowing vehicles down well before they reach the roundabout, Landin predicted a roundabout will move the problem of congestion at 13th Avenue SW down the road to 10th Avenue SW and 7th Avenue SW.
Several other attendees echoed the concern about traffic and backups on those streets.
Belino responded by saying a roundabout or stoplight at 13th is only one part of the changes coming. The city is planning on building a road by Lauzier Park – it’s in the city’s “transportation improvement program,” but it is not scheduled – that would connect 13th Avenue SW to the residential area of southwest Quincy and relieve some of the congestion.
Jack Tobin asked why such a connecting road has not already been built, saying that probably 75 percent of the traffic at the roundabout intersection is related to the schools on 13th Avenue SW: A connecting road “would eliminate a lot of that.”
Belino repeated that the road is in the plan.
“What’s holding it up?” Tobin asked.
Property and money, Belino replied.
Jack Eaton asked if the road would be built with or without money from the state. Yes, said Belino.
Other suggestions that came up included signage on approaches to the roundabout as well as rumble strips for eastbound drivers to be alerted and slow down. The roundabout will be well lit, Bicket said, and it will have lots of signage and striping.
There were concerns about the stream of vehicles not allowing gaps for vehicles trying to get onto SR 28. A stoplight creates those gaps, but a roundabout would not. There were also remarks about the difficulty of getting long vehicles through the roundabout.
“I know the truck drivers don’t like the roundabouts,” Bicket said.
The island in the middle of the roundabout is “mountable,” meaning the curb is low and angled intentionally to allow long vehicles to run up onto the island – and it is legal to do so, Bicket said.
Josey Ferguson, a Quincy City Council member, asked how the roundabout design will alleviate traffic backups into town.
There was some discussion of making the roundabout larger, with two lanes, which would allow vehicles more opportunities to get into the roundabout. However, “the volumes of traffic don’t justify a double-lane roundabout,” Bicket said.
On the design shown at the meeting is a long lane added to the south side of westbound SR28 that would allow right turners off 13th Avenue SW to accelerate and merge left. The lane shown extends about half the way to 10th Avenue SW. Currently, the state route changes from two lanes to four at 7th. Belino would like a lane along SR 28’s south side, all the way from 13th to 7th, something that would require approval by the state.
Gould said the roundabout will allow drivers to predict their travel times better. “It’s much more predictable for the drivers how long it’s going to take get from Point A to Point B … and it’s going to feel a lot more comfortable that way.”
Belino mentioned that there is a long-term plan to make Road 11 NW a truck route as the city tries to cope with growth and traffic.
“The city is trying to catch up,” Belino said. “We try to mitigate what we can.”
After the meeting, Belino said turnout was good and there were some good questions from attendees. Belino said he had met with local industry representatives two months ago to discuss the intersection and his impression is that industry is on board with a roundabout.
By Dave Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org