by Dennis Dalman
The debate about roundabouts – love ‘em or hate ‘em – continues unabated, especially in Sartell where they seem to have been cropping up like mushrooms in springtime.
At the March 9 city council meeting, roundabout designer Andrew Plowman of the Twin Cities-based MSB Associates, spoke to the council about the benefits of roundabouts compared with other types of controlled intersections.
An announcement a couple of months ago by Sartell City Engineer Mike Nielson that there might be as many as nine roundabouts on Pinecone Road caused controversy among residents. Later, however, Nielson emphasized the number “nine” was meant as only a possibility that might happen over a 30- to 50-year period.
Even so, the city council voted to approve plans and specs for three roundabouts to be built this year as part of Pinecone Road improvements. (See related story in today’s paper.)
Plowman has designed nearly 100 roundabouts far and wide. A “roundabout craze” has definitely taken hold throughout the nation, he said, to the point that some states (New York and Virginia, to name two) won’t even consider other intersection-control methods until roundabouts have been thoroughly discounted, case by case.
In study after study, roundabouts have proven to be much safer in decreasing the number of serious-injury accidents because of lower speeds of vehicles at a roundabout and because head-on crashes or T-bone accidents are virtually impossible at a roundabout. Serious and fatal accidents are virtually eliminated because of roundabouts, Plowman assured the council.
Council members Amy Braig-Lindstrom and David Peterson expressed concerns about safety for pedestrians and/or bikers in roundabout areas. Plowman said they have also been proven to be very safe for pedestrian crossings, giving examples, such as one in Richfield located near a community pool where children cross near the roundabout frequently. Another one in Shakopee, near a school, caused many alarms, but once it was constructed, parents have praised it as very safe for pedestrian children. Plowman said he has never heard of pedestrian tragedies at the roundabouts currently used in Minnesota.
Plowman cited crash statistics about three Pinecone Road intersections in recent years, with the traffic-lights one at Pinecone and 2nd Avenue S. being the worst (21 crashes in 2014).
Another benefit of roundabouts, Plowman added, is that building them requires less space and therefore less need for obtaining rights-of-way.