Traffic light, not roundabout, will go on Highway 200 at West Riverside

2012-05-31T23:00:00Z 2012-06-01T07:17:43Z Traffic light, not roundabout, will go on Highway 200 at West RiversideBy KEILA SZPALLER of the Missoulian missoulian.com

West Riverside will be getting a traffic signal instead of a roundabout at Montana Highway 200 and First Street, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.

“We got quite a bit of opposition from the public about a roundabout at that location,” Missoula District administrator Ed Toavs said Thursday.

The project involves a whole lot more than the signal, but the debate about whether to install a traffic light or roundabout in front of the Town Pump Travel Plaza elicited a lot of public interest, Toavs said. The state agency discussed its plans at a couple of Bonner Community Council meetings, and interest was high in the intersection.

“We learned quickly – real quick – that the community was real interested in that particular design component,” he said.

And most of the interested people didn’t want the roundabout, he said. Toavs said the department will continue to consider installing them in other places in the state, but it must listen to public feedback.

“We have to be real sensitive to the public. That is, they are the taxpayer,” he said.

The state’s decision for a signal goes against the recommendation of the Missoula County commissioners. Last month, all three commissioners signed a letter touting the benefits of roundabouts as able to “positively alter driver behavior” and reduce the number and severity of crashes.

“Having considered both options, we believe the safest and most effective alternative is a roundabout which incorporates a gated wide load bypass,” wrote chairman Bill Carey and commissioners Michele Landquist and Jean Curtiss. “Available research clearly touts the safety benefits of roundabouts.”

Another part of the project the public helped shape is the realignment of Old Highway 10, according to the department. The public preferred the alignment go through undeveloped property opposite the Town Pump than use West Riverside Road, and the preference was “pretty close to unanimous.”

“They were not interested in us building this roadway alignment on Riverside Drive in front of their houses,” Toavs said.

People who have questions for the agency should plan to attend the upcoming Bonner Community Council meeting at 7 p.m. on June 11 in the Bonner School Library unless otherwise posted: http://www.co.missoula.mt.us/rural/communitycouncils/Bonner.htm.

Toavs said the council asked department officials to do a short presentation, and he plans to review the decisions the agency made and answer questions.

***

In a news release, the department outlined the other components of the project, which is slated to be under construction in 2014:

  •  Close the existing intersection of Old Highway 10 and Montana 200;
  •  Improve First Street between the new Old Highway 10 intersection and the Montana 200 intersection;
  •  Improve the alignment of the center Town Pump approach to Montana 200;
  •  Install a short acceleration and merge lane at the westbound Interstate 90 off-ramp along Montana 200;
  •  Apply new asphalt surfacing, drainage improvements, seal and cover (chip seal), updated pavement markings, and install street lights.

***

“The purpose of the project is to improve safety and access in this area,” reads a news release from the department.

While the project isn’t scheduled to be built for a couple of years, Toavs said a lot of variables are in play and could affect the timeline.

For one thing, local transportation officials still are waiting on Congress to approve a new Highway Bill, and changes to current funding levels would affect the improvements. Also, the project entails property acquisition, and that work can be unpredictable.

“Sometimes, it goes really well. Sometimes, it takes more time to negotiate value,” Toavs said.

Initial – and rough – estimates put the cost of a roundabout at close to $1 million and the traffic signal at $630,000. Some truck drivers who frequently use the intersection now said they’d change their driving pattern if the state built a roundabout, and Toavs said moving people in another direction would defeat the purpose of encouraging people to use the new intersection.

“When you go out and spend public money, you want to make sure it’s going to be used and the taxpayer dollar is being spent well,” he said.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

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(9) Comments

  1. Bob Giordano
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    Bob Giordano - June 05, 2012 9:00 am
    Due Process suggests we at MIST have a vested interest in roundabouts. Our vested interest is to: end traffic injuries and deaths, help create a transport system that works for all, and reduce pollution as much as possible. Modern single lane roundabouts tend to do all three. Due Process also suggests we educate cyclists better. We agree. Our efforts right now- thru our Free Cycles program- include 150 free bikewell classes a year, with 2-10 attending each one. We teach road rules and basic safety (and bike maintenance). We require the class before someone builds a free bike. Yet more needs to be done with transportation education in general. I agree with Janice that local decisions should be based mostly on local input. That is why we did not push hard for a roundabout in Bonner, yet we did provide data and testimony to the County Commissioners. -Bob Giordano, Missoula Institute For Sustainable Transportation

  2. ScottRAB
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    ScottRAB - June 04, 2012 10:39 am
    Observer isn't very observant.

    There is no center sidewalk in a modern roundabout.
    Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Search www.iihs.org for FAQs and safety facts.
    If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout, search www.k-state.edu to see pictures. The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHzly_6lWM ).
    Essentially, Mdot has chosen an intersection control that is twice as likely to have a crash and several times more likely to have a fatal collision because a few people voiced 'concern'? Sounds like fear vs. science and fear won.
  3. nemo
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    nemo - June 02, 2012 2:31 pm
    I'm guessing if truckers think it's a stupid idea then it's a stupid idea. Score one for West Riverside! Let's not forget that We, the People ARE the government. Truck aprons, what'll they think of next?
  4. DueProcess
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    DueProcess - June 01, 2012 12:53 pm
    Bob,
    Have you ever driven a truck? I rest my case.
  5. Janice
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    Janice - June 01, 2012 12:13 pm
    I think its wonderful that the community whom it affects the most had input that was heeded. Like it or not, you aren't dealing with a community of college students and good food store patrons. You are dealing with a community of very hard working, very savvy, no nonsense, blue collar people who will not let a "small citizen grass roots based" organization tell them what is best for their community.
  6. Bob Giordano
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    Bob Giordano - June 01, 2012 9:47 am
    The Higgins Beckwith single lane roundabout here in Missoula allows all large trucks to make all turns. The rear wheels of the largest trucks (WB-67, or about a 73' foot truck trailer combo) go up over the concrete truck apron (it is not a sidewalk). Cars stay to the outside of the apron, slowing to go around. The irony with roundabouts is that while people slow down (creating safety), overall delay is decreased. The big advantage is a huge reduction in injuries and fatalities that are so common at traffic lights. Saving lives and saving time means a big savings to personal and community economy. These issues are a part of sustainable transportation. We are a small, citizen based, grass roots organization. -Bob Giordano, MIST
  7. DueProcess
    Report Abuse
    DueProcess - June 01, 2012 9:14 am
    Bob,
    I would agree there are places where a roundabout may make sense, but you are high if you think having a roundabout in place of traffic signals is the answer in all cases. My guess is you have a vested interest in them because of your non profit's interest in bicycles. My advice would be do a better job educating bicyclists to OBEY the rules of the road. I could easily write 100 citations a day to your brethren who only follow the rules that benefit them. I am shocked that more of them are not killed daily as wreckless as they are on bikes. There are some idiot drivers too. I am not anti bicycle, I happen to own 3 of them and ride on Mountain Bike trails, rather than on pavement. You know, like the bikes were intended to be ridden? Good day
  8. observer
    Report Abuse
    observer - June 01, 2012 8:19 am
    The big misconception is how they are designed and used in the US. I have traveled a lot in the west and have yet to find one that is big enough to allow a legal length truck to use it with out having to use all the lanes and usually the sidewalk in the center or the outside edge as well. This puts a huge burden on the trucker and the cars attempting to use it. Besides being a stupid euro design that does not work here, it costs twice as much. How could any rational person argue in favor of such a thing in these economic times, especially someone who claims a title of 'sustainable transportation'? Hopefully you are doing this with your own money and not mine.
  9. Bob Giordano
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    Bob Giordano - June 01, 2012 7:41 am
    There seems to be a big misconception about roundabouts here. Properly designed, they tend to be much safer than signals, and reduce delay and operating costs. A recent study from Australia found that over a 4-year period, there were 27 pedestrian fatalities at 4,000 traffic signals, and zero pedestrian fatalities at 4,000 roundabouts. The injuries at traffic signals continue at Missoula traffic signals, while the true modern roundabouts in the area have had zero injuries. -Bob Giordano, Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation
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