Edmonds Council votes to begin design work on Five Corners roundabout

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The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted unanimously to proceed with designing a roundabout for the Five Corners intersection at 212th Street Southwest and 84th Avenue West. The council authorized the mayor to sign a consultant agreement to complete plans, specifications, environmental documentation, cost estimate, and right-of way-services.

The idea of placing a roundabout at the current five-way stop has been the subject of significant discussion among councilmembers and citizens, especially those who haven’t had an opportunity to use one and were concerned about its safety and effectiveness.

In fact, Councilmember Michael Plunkett admitted somewhat sheepishly that until he asked the question Tuesday night, he assumed that roundabouts — which route traffic in a one-way pattern around an intersection with entrances and exits  — actually had stop signs.

Public Works Director Phil Williams noted that those not familiar with roundabouts may not like the idea at first, but studies have proven them to be more efficient for vehicles and safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Roundabouts have long been in use in European countries and are becoming increasingly familiar in the U.S.

“Two years after it’s been in place, no one will remember why it was controversial,” Williams said.

While Councilmember Lora Petso ended up voting in favor of proceeding with design, she did have concerns that citizens did not have a chance to specifically comment on the roundabout since it has always been included as part of a list of transportation projects, rather than introduced separately.

Councilmember DJ Wilson added that residents he talked with were against the idea of building a roundabout by a 70-percent to 30-percent ratio until he informed them the majority of design costs were being covered by grant money, which shifted the approval to 90 percent.

Roundabout design and environmental phases are scheduled for 2011 through 2012 and the right of way acquisition phase is set to begin in the fall of 2012. The city received a federal grant for $463,000 to fund final design and right-of-way acquisition; a required 13.5 percent local match will be paid for through the city’s Street Fund. The city will continue to pursue grant money for the construction phase, Williams said

A generation gap of sorts appeared during a presentation by City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite regarding the proposed design for the small courtyard area located in front of Old Milltown at 5th and Dayton. Hite explained that she had formed an ad hoc committee of stakeholders, including representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Floretum Garden Club and Edmonds in Bloom, to discuss design ideas for the space. Councilmember Wilson, the father of two young children, pointed out that the preferred design didn’t include a play space for kids, something that he felt would be important to Edmonds families. He also pointed out he was certain that none of the committee members had younger-age children.

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, the parent of an adult son, disagreed, stating that “I don’t believe that ever park should be child related,” suggesting instead that parents take their kids to one of the city parks nearby that have child-friendly activities.

“I like the idea of having a park for adults,” she said, adding that older people don’t always want to be around children.

Councilmember Steve Bernheim then noted that he wasn’t going to come out against the Old Milltown design because it didn’t have bike racks for his bicycle.

The exchange led Wilson to send a message later via Twitter: “Being the only Edmonds Council member with kids at home is a lonely road sometimes. You’d think there were no kids here based on comments.”

In the end, the Council decided to give citizens an opportunity to comment on the Old Milltown design proposals at the Aug. 15 meeting, and Hite said she hoped that common ground could be found for incorporating play opportunities into the space.

In other action, the Council:
– Discussed with Hite a range of ideas for turning a profit at the city’s parks, include charging a non-resident fee for recreation, instituting permits at the underwater dive park and allowing concession vendors and/or mobile food trucks. Councilmembers told Hite they would support further research by staff on a variety of revenue-generating ideas, with the goal of having something in place by the following summer.
– approved a Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program, which the council is required each year to update prior to approving the city budget. Wilson made a point of complimenting city staff on their successful efforts to acquire significant grant money to cover many of the city’s transportation projects.
– approved July 2011 budget amendments to cover unanticipated transfers and expenses. A complete list of budget amendments can be found here.

4 COMMENTS

  1. WSDOT has some good information on how to navigate roundabouts.

    The video on that page is somewhat amusing in that most of the cars ignore the requirement that you use a turn signal before exiting and it shows a car that fails to yield to a fire truck until the fire truck heads off in another direction.

    Five corners does seem to be a perfect candidate for a roundabout. The intersection is so large that likely very little surrounding property will have to be taken away.

  2. If people who think roundabouts are great need to take a drive up Highway 539 from Bellingham to the Canadian border. We have driven it often and it is nasty. Those driving the through these are speeding through, people can not walk across these roundabouts and the trucks driving through are at risk of running over any car next to it. These roundabouts do not stop or even slow down the traffic using them, even with the speed limit being reduced to 15 mph from 50mph.

    I’ve lived in Edmonds all my life (57 yrs) and at 5 corners for 40 of those years and NEVER saw an accident, risk to the children who use that intersection to walk to school (including my children and grandchildren). I do not see the payoff for the 5 corners residents at all in this. I see more costs, less safety, and more risks for children and vehicles.

    I would NOT spend the money on this project, when there are other projects that really have a higher priority then this. Just because we have the grant does not mean we have to use it.

    Do we really know what the residents of 5 corners want for their community. Of the meetings I attended I found no one from within a 1 mile area of the 5 corners. Someone from Seaview who wanted a better bike round to 5 corners from his home, but the roundabout wouldn’t be very helpful for him either.

    I vote NO for spending the money on something that is not proven to be helpful in this area.

  3. I agree with the comments that safety is very definitely an issue with traffic circles.

    In July we spent a week in Montreal and a week in Halifax, Nova Scotia; both are places where we previously lived. While driving around those two cities we noticed that virtually all of the many traffic circles that they have, some for more than 50 years, now have had traffic lights added to them. Some local supporters of traffic circles have commented on their use in other cities in our state. I contend that after they’ve been in use for many years, and there’s been an accumulation of serious accidents, those circles will also likely have to be modified.

    I realize that England is replete with roundabouts, as they call them, but they are a way of life there as there are more roundabouts than there are intersections with traffic lights. Therefore, no justification for their use here.

    The city should bring this project to a speedy halt.

  4. I look forward to seeing the proposed design on this project. Chris and Ron are justified in their concerns about pedestrians. 5 corners gets a lot of pedestrian traffic, and most of it seems to be kids. If the design is not pedestrian friendly, I agree that it should be scrapped.

    One simple thing they could do is to keep all of the stop signs.

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