by Dennis Dalman
The Sartell City Council, on a vote of 3-2, approved plans and specs and the calling of bids for three roundabout projects for Pinecone Road, all of which will be built this year.
The roundabouts are proposed for the intersections at Pinecone and Scout Drive, Pinecone and Heritage Drive and Pinecone and 2nd Avenue S. (For more about the roundabout issue, see related stories in today’s paper.)
Council members Amy Braig-Lindstrom and David Peterson voted against the roundabout proposals. Braig-Linstrom said the city is rushing forward to spend money when other options haven’t been considered for the Pinecone-2nd Street intersection. She emphasized she is not against roundabout solutions but that, in her opinion, the city should first attempt other light-signal options for a couple years or so before jumping into the roundabout solution. She also said she has serious concerns about vehicle and pedestrian safety because that intersection is busy with traffic, businesses and people coming and going in every direction.
“We are rushing to spend this money so quickly,” Braig-Lindstrom said.
Peterson said he, too, is concerned about safety, especially as regards bicyclists. He also said the city is building too many roundabouts.
“We are on our way to the nine roundabouts (on Pinecone Road),” he said. “If we put in three now, that’s one more step to ‘Roundabout Alley.’”
Other council members said the time is ripe to improve safety at those three intersections.
Member Steve Hennes said he once had qualms about roundabouts but he now believes the city should move ahead with them because they have been known to enhance safety.
Member Pat Lynch said he feels comfortable with the roundabout concept, that the city should avoid temporary Band-Aid fixes at those intersections and the engineers presented solid facts about roundabouts’ efficacy, based on empirical evidence.
Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll said the intersection at Pinecone-2nd Street is scary enough the way it is, especially when crossing the streets there with her two young daughters. It could only be improved with a roundabout, she added.
“I don’t see any down side at this point,” Nicoll added.
City Engineer Mike Nielson said he and staff have held meetings with business owners at and near the busy intersection of Pinecone-2nd Street. Almost all of them were very positive about the roundabout solution, with several saying they hope disruptions are minimized but if it has to be done they want it done once and for all, all at once.
Nielson said plans and specs will be prepared, and two separate bids will be called – one for Pinecone-2nd Street, the other for Scout Drive and Heritage Drive combined. The three will not be done all at the same time. But all will be done in 2015.