Roundabout plan blasted
April 30, 2009 · Updated 11:42 AM
By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald
The state's Department of Transportation came to Enumclaw last week, hoping to show off its plans for a roundabout north of the city, a traffic-calming device aimed at slowing drivers and preventing accidents at a busy rural intersection.
Local folks took the opportunity to let the DOT know exactly what they think of the idea. And it's not much.
At issue is the intersection of state Route 169 and Southeast 416th Street, which the DOT has deemed dangerous due to the number of accidents during the past five years. Looking at ways to move an increasing number of vehicles safely, DOT engineers started work on a roundabout, which gets rid of the traditional squared-off intersection and eliminates the potential for the most serious type of accidents.
Supporters boast that roundabouts keep everything moving because no one has to stop for signs or traffic lights.
Many of those attending the April 25 session at the Enumclaw Expo Center, however, had other ideas. They told DOT representatives a roundabout is not feasible at the busy intersection due to the high volume of large rigs that pass through. Others were simply unhappy that the state began planning for a roundabout before consulting the public.
Project engineer Mehrdad Moini, after getting peppered with criticism while standing in the Expo Center's north parking lot, said the response was just what he had expected. Studies throughout the nation show there is initially 70 percent opposition when roundabouts are proposed, he said; after drivers become familiar with roundabouts, he added, the numbers flip to 70 percent support.
In the north lot, the DOT had used sandbags to outline the type of roundabout proposed for state Route 169, a single-land design that measures 170 feet by 150 feet. A rig pulling a long, flatbed trailer negotiated the course at a very slow speed and the public was invited to drive the same course.
Politicians on hand supported the anti-roundabout forces. State Rep. Christopher Hurst said he opposes the DOT plan and promised citizens “this is not a done deal.” State Sen. Pam Roach expressed her displeasure with the idea and got a DOT official to state the plan could be scrapped.
The project engineer, Moini, has been consistent in his statements. He said engineers believe a roundabout is the best answer for the intersection and will proceed in that direction, since funding has been assured. The project could be stopped dead in its tracks, however, if those higher up the political chain decide to pull the necessary dollars, he said.