Trends Fall 2014 | Page 10

Circling back: Wisconsin roundabouts still delivering two years later W hen three roundabouts were proposed on a 1.5-mile segment of State Highway 33 in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, area residents were apprehensive about just how well that type of intersection would work. But after two years of service, “we’ve had the best kind of reaction, which is really no reaction at all,” says Rob Vanden Noven, director of public works and city engineer for the City of Port Washington. People are driving the roundabouts without incident, and the facilities are doing what they were intended to do – move vehicles safely and smoothly through the intersections without impeding access to local businesses. This segment of State Highway 33 was previously an unattractive two-lane highway that was also inhospitable to pedestrians and bicyclists. More than 10,000 vehicles daily travel the road, which is the main thoroughfare for commuters and visitors accessing the City of Port Washington and Village of Saukville from Interstate 43. The project corridor ranges from heavy commercial districts to residential neighborhoods to farmland. In addition, existing ramps at the grade-separated interchange of State Highway 33 and County Highway “LL” leading into Port Washington prevented development of otherwise valuable commercial real estate. that businesses, driveways, and parking lots were right next to State Highway 33, and selecting a conventional signalized intersection with accompanying turn lanes would have resulted in a huge intersection footprint. The real estate impacts were significantly less with roundabouts. The roundabouts work better for pedestrians and bicyclists, too. Vanden Noven said the roadway in Port Washington now includes a 10-foot-wide multi-use trail on one side and a 5-foot sidewalk on the other. “Port Washington stresses the importance of pedestrian accessibility and community walkability,” he said. “Traffic comes down a hill to enter the city, and the roundabout forces them to slow down to the 25 mph speed limit. We feel that a traffic signal would have produced the opposite effect, with motorists speeding up for a stale green or yellow light.” Roundabouts weren’t the only change. Ayres Associates led the design team that transformed the roadway: The old two-lane highway is now a four-lane urban road with turn lanes for major side roads. Valuable land is available for development; three traffic signal intersections were improved; power lines are now invisible underground; and a raised median adds beauty through landscaping and decorative lighting. Ayres Associates led the design development and public involvement process for the road reconstruction, which involved looking at a variety of possible improvements. Gary Metzer, project manager in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Southeast Region, noted Left: The roundabout at the entrance to Port Washington forces traffic to slow down to the 25 mph speed limit, making the intersection safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Right: The series of three roundabouts between Port Washington and Saukville keep traffic moving without encroaching on valuable real estate. The two shown here are in Saukville. 10│ TRENDS And those who were skeptical about roundabouts? Both Metzer and Vanden Noven said they’ve heard people comment that once they drive a roundabout a couple times, it’s easy to navigate. “Now it’s comfortable,” Metzer said. “Ayres Associates delivered a roundabout design that met every promise that was made prior to construction. We’re very happy with it,” Vanden Noven said. — Wendy Kinderman