Letter: It’s not too late to reverse decision on roundabout



Since Tuesday’s council meeting we’ve heard from other citizens who oppose the construction of the roundabout at this time. The comments are 10 against to 2 for it on M.E.N. The vote in the M.E.N. poll was in favor of the roundabout Tuesday evening  – probably weighted by city employees – now the poll indicates there are 111 against it and 91 for it. There’s been a great letter recently in another publication from Bob Wilcox; his comments coincide with what I said at the Dec. 20th council meeting , but he also makes the very good point that Edmonds is a leader in environmental issues so why not with public funding issues.

Many of those who support moving ahead, now, with the roundabout project have mischaracterized the thinking of those who oppose it. Most of the citizens who oppose it are not opposed to a roundabout per se. They’ve carefully assessed the situation and they just don’t see a need for it at this time – they have no problem with the safety of Five Corners or the time required to transit thru the intersection. Additionally, they do not wish to have public funds from any source spent on unneeded projects.

The bureaucrats say that the intersection has a failed level of service, because on average it takes 115 seconds to get thru it. Well the experience of citizens is that it does not take that long, and even if it did that’s not a problem. I’m starting to believe that it’s the bureaucrat’s standards for level of service that’s failed. They are too restrictive. I’m sure that we all know of intersections in nearby Lynnwood where we sit at traffic lights for 5 minutes or more. It’s a tolerable way of life.

It is not too late to have the city council reverse their decision to proceed with this unneeded project. When the council next meets, Jan.3rd, one of the three council members who voted with the majority – Peterson, Buckshnis and Fraley-Monillas – could introduce a motion to reconsider. If you oppose the roundabout at this time, please contact those council members to request they introduce such a motion and then vote to have the roundabout removed from the 2012 Capital Facilities Plan, Capital Improvement Program and Six Year Transportation Improvement Program. Please also contact our two new council members – Bloom and Yamamoto – to request that they vote for the removal of the roundabout.

Ron Wambolt


  1. Ron- I disagree with you. Roundabouts work very well in the right place, and five streets intersecting is the right place in my opinion. Sometimes change is difficult to accept, especially for someone who has lived in this area for a long time. When you remember Edmonds when there were many fewer cars it’s hard to picture the need to serve the many more that are on our streets.

  2. I would like to add my “no” vote. Many people have already said most of what I already believe and think. I am a 30 yr Edmonds resident, and have never had trouble driving through that intersection or seen an accident. I, too, am familiar with roundabouts in England and have seen how well they work, or don’t work. I would like to contribute two examples of local roundabouts-gone-bad. Port Townsend, by that lovely lighting shop on the way into town. Has anyone negotiated their way through that? And Ocean Shores, by the grocery store. When I drove through that roundabout I was wondering what the town planners had been thinking. Did they get a government grant to build it? I agree with other Edmonds residents who have said, just because our taxpayer dollars would pay for it, doesn’t make it a sensible, practical choice. I also don’t think a traffic light at 9th and Caspers is a good idea. I am writing this message on Christmas morning, so I hope that indicates how strongly I feel about this issue! And by the way, I love living in Edmonds.

  3. Excellent letter Ron. You nailed it this time .

    City employees continue to come up with half baked notions on how the city should and/or will develop. Remember the ten year old “vision” that 4th Av would be vastly widened expensively big time north to the Arts Center? Now we seem to have a newer but still somwhat whacked out notion that 5 corners will develop into a gigantic shopping center which simply cannot happen; and all this in the fuzzy thinking name of “economic development”.

    Supply and demand will determine future economic development. Half baked urban planners will not.

    Our would be great urban planners apparently do not have enough real work to do. Perhaps the new Mayor should begin to focus on ADMINISTERING efforts to solve current problems rather than encouraging LEGISLATING employees who seem to want to create new ones. Neither a Mayor or employees are needed to legislate but rather to do their respective jobs. Maybe we have too many employees and a cost savings is possible.

    The roundabout has even less citizens in favor than the failed levies. Council members should begin to consider the opinions of the citizenry more and those of the city employees less in order to continue to remain successful.

  4. Does anyone know the time line on this project? Things like when is plem design done? What is the timing of any grant applications? When would any grants likely be made? What would be the time line for moving forward with an approval process, getting bids, having council approve? All these steps would likely take time. How much time and what are the options to timing? Maybe all this can be done in a way that we continue to work on the piece parts, still have a way to NOT go forward if it still is the wrong timing when we need to make those decisions.

  5. Darrol:
    Phil Williams reported that 10% of the design has been completed. As more of the design is finished, more of the grant money will be utilized – which means that if the projected is eventually halted the city will have more to repay. Now is the time to bring the project to an end.

  6. Ron W. Are you asking for this project to be stopped totally and forever or just delayed until better times or more money available for our share of the project?

  7. I live in Edmonds and go through that roundabout no more than 20 times a year. I think that a decision like that should be made from the people who live and work around there, myself I don’t see that being a proiority I think that all the extra money that the city gets for road construction should be in street repair they have already said there short of money in that area, why go build something that you really don’t need just a thought

  8. Darrol:
    I’m asking for the project to be delayed until there’s a legitimate need and its importance, when evaluated against other needs, warrants spending available funds.

  9. The money for the roundabout is coming mostly from the fed. 86.5% and could not be spent anywhere else. The rest of the money will come from development fees, not taxes. Everyone had a chance to speak at council meeting and even counting the e-mails sent in it was unquestionably a win for the roundabout and progress. More people also spoke in favor, by a wide margin. The science is unequivocal and the Public Works directors, both past and present are very much in favor of the project. What makes Ron think he knows more than scientists and professionals that make traffic study their careers? The roundabout will decrease delays, pollution, accidents and hazards to other drivers,and perhaps most importantly, pedestrians-including school children. One of those teens even spoke up in clear concern for the existing condition and firm support for the project. Progress will happen at 5 corners and I am glad of it. Real improvements paid for by the federal govt. should be embraced by our community, and are being embraced by the majority.

  10. The Roundabout discussion is very interesting. I can understand the concept that the City and City Staff have somewhat of a “responsibility” to pursue Federal and State grant money whenever it is available to help fund projects taking place within City limits. This “responsibility” diminishes as the City’s required participation percentage increases.

    As none of the streets involved at 5 corners appear to be Federal or State routes, I have to question WHY Federal or State money would be eligible for this project. That Federal money appears to be available may provide yet another example of Federal government growth far beyond that intended by the Constitution. This type of spending may be a good example of why we are so greatly in debt at the Federal Level.

    I hope our Federal elected officials are made aware of the local opposition to the Roundabout. There are some local citizens opposing this project (some permanently, some temporarily) even when the majority of the money won’t be coming directly out of our own pockets. This is a message our Federal and State officials need to hear as the US National DEBT grows dramatically every minute of every day.

    I’m not saying the Roundabout project doesn’t have merit. I think some of the arguments made by proponents of the Roundabout are very compelling. I just think it should be a City decision based on City funding. Under the assumption that the City has money for this project, I believe the decision should be based on a cost benefit analysis of whether or not we want to allocate this much City money to this specific project.

    My belief is related to a desire for a reduction in Federal government spending.

  11. If we could find a federal grant for protection of the marsh, daylighting the marsh to puget sound and otherwise create enhancements should we turn it down? What about federal or state grants enhancing tourism? What about fed grants to support schools? What about earmarks that our elected offices create for “worthy projects”? What if we found a grant to help with the conversion to clean energy or no styroform containers? What should our criteria be to accept or reject grants?

  12. Great questions Darrol – we could have a fascinating discussion, couldn’t we. There are no easy answers as the Federal Government has expanded to such great size that it would be very painful to turn back. The problem is, much of the Federal Government spending depends on the continued expansion of government DEBT. I believe the Federal Government is committed to a long term strategy of managing the increasing national debt via inflationary practices. The problem is, will they eventually reach a point in time where they are “pushing on a string”?

    I am amazed at the continued demand for government debt issues at historically low interest rates. Where would we be today if the Federal Reserve hadn’t purchased government debt over the past few years?

    What happens if deflationary forces take hold?

    These are complicated issues . . .

  13. I live in 5 Corners area and find the current configuration NOT a problem. What is a problem is the unsafe pedestrian crossing at 220th & 80th – this is a school crossing yet is not properly marked and traffic flies by here with hardly any cars stopping for peds. Let’s get the intersection fixed with flashing lights like at EWHS and/or the digital speed sign like the one near Westgate Elementary. Get crossing flags there IMMEDIATELY – like at the 3rd Ave North intersection. Get the cops at this intersection to issue tickets for speeding, people on their phones, etc.

    Correcting the intersection at 196th & 88th for safe crossing is also needed. These are two priorities over a roundabout. City workers don’t seem to know or care about these dangerous intersections.

  14. It’s grant money, use it or lose it. The Luddites say it’s not needed now. Let’s look ahead and think long-term. It will be a nice enhancement to our beautiful city for safety, traffic, esthetics, economy, and construction jobs. Money available now for our future.

  15. The “science” delivered by the “professionals’ states that the average wait time at 5 corners is 115 seconds. Not one person for or against this project has reported even once that they have waited anywhere close to 115 seconds. All of the people that use that area report minimal wait times. My wife and I have traveled through 5 corners during all rush hours more then 30 times. My wife was held up one time for 55 seconds.
    I have never waited more then 30 seconds.So the good news is that the bad news is wrong. We have been given flawed data with which to make our decisions. There is no problem navigating through 5 corners.
    If the council still thinks this project is a good idea, then I will support them with the advisory to do their own research. Don’t always roll over for the “professionals”.

  16. After listening to the testimony at the Public Hearing, and hearing more than one person question the “average wait times” at 5 Corners, and specifically hearing Mr. Page question it, I would hope we listen. It is difficult for me to understand that the “average wait time” is truly an issue.
    Mr. Page questioned the data, and challenged the Council to verify the data before proceeding. The problem seems to be that the data presented does not “true up” with our experience of that intersection. If obtaining the grant was predicated on addressing intersections with lengthy wait times, in order to gain better air quality, then it seems that Mr. Page was correct that we should all be made aware of how the wait times were calculated, by whom, and that it can be replicated. Once we can be shown the accuracy of the data about the wait times, then we can better decide if the proposed roundabout is justified.

  17. And if the average wait time becomes 115 seconds, I ask again : Is 115 seconds such an unreasonable wait that millions of dollars of public money should be spent to reduce it?

  18. How can a project such as this even be considered right now with other needs and budget issues in Edmonds? 3 levies just failed, did the taxpayers not just speak their minds about this kind of priority spending? I am not clear why the project took a priority at this time. 5 corners could be addressed when the clear need is there and the house is in order. I am not sure why it got the green light months back with money having to be repaid now if it does not go forward and the situation in Edmonds. Sounds like poor money management to me.

    Two council members questioned it, perhaps the two incoming members will take a good look at it as well.

  19. My wife and I have driven thru there at least 100 times this last year. On the average the wait time is as long as it takes you to stop, look and go. (5 to 10 seconds)
    There must be a lot of 230 seconds wait time to bring the average to 115 seconds.
    The 115 seconds wait time average is a fabrication.

  20. I like it Darrol – Better forward the frozen string comment to Bernanke and Geithner!

    We need leadership at the Federal level that is willing to take us through the painful process of reduced Federal spending.

    I am thankful for the willingness of many in Edmonds to resist Federal government grants for projects that might not be totally necessary. We need more of that mentality nationwide. . . much more.

  21. Well, one good problem in seeking fed/state funds is that they are not sustaining beyond project development. Once built, Edmonds is on its own to maintain, improve or correct. A not unreasonable scenario is the ‘good science’ behind the development doesn’t work as anticipated and, collectively, we say ‘oops.’ What then? Do we remember the Recovery money used to pave Dayton from Admiral up to 4th Ave. Well within a year or so, much of that ‘recovery pavement’ was torn up for another public works project and repaved. This is the experience of most municipalities around the country. Once your fed/state funded project is over, it’s your dime if you have one. So…Edmonds, are we putting our loose change into our bottles to, some day, pay for what we get?

  22. I’ve lived here 30 plus years and have seen first hand a near-miss car-pedestrian accident (where the elderly gentleman had to jump out of the way) and have seen other close calls often, A roundabout makes sense in this intersection, If we have the money to do it why not make the intersection safer and more efficient?

  23. If the 114 second wait (disputed) is the reason, then a better choice would be Main and 9th where long waits and back ups are common during peak hours.

    If it’s safety then yes – round-abouts are safer and quicker when properly designed and all entrances are “yield” to cars on the round-about — but If the Council insists on putting “stop” signs on some but not all entrances then forget it. (The round-about on Dayton and 8th is a joke and a hazard because of silly decisions like this).

    If this is “we have grant money that must be spent or lose it” then just do it and stop pretending that residents have any say in how, or falsifying the council motivations.

    Don’t forget the ridiculous double long buses that may have to negotiate the corner and that every entrance must have a crossing to support the local school students.

  24. Imagine if the school board spent their time debating the ethics of accepting federal grants, or the hospital board punted their responsibilites in favor of dissecting national health insurance reform, or the solvency of Medicare. I doubt they’d have time to look after the best interests of the local community, and I really doubt such conceit would be appreciated by the citizens they represent.

    I don’t recall a single Edmonds Council Member candidate running on national issues, and I doubt such a platform would have attracted many voters. The only Edmonds resident elected to represent national financial interests is Maria Cantwell. I suggest you contact her with your federal tax concerns.

    Why not limit the debate of the proposed roundabout on its merits and demerits, and the City’s cost?

  25. Thanks Gary for bringing this subject back to the basics- all politics are local and what the Edmonds City Council does will not make a statement in the halls of Congress. If we make this issue a partisan one we will end up in the same limbo that our federal government is experiencing.

  26. Since it appears that the City Council will allow the city to pursue grants to build this roundabout, the question I have is how much money is the city willing to spend of the city’s money if the grants do not cover 100% of the funding required to complete this project? The city was required to pay a portion of the design and acquisition phase (althought not a large amount) so it’s not unreasonable to expect that the city will have to pay a portion of the construction costs. And what other projects won’t be done if the city spends money on this project? Do we have any guidelines for a go/no go decision or are we just going to spend whatever it takes of the city’s money to make this project happen (again assuming grants won’t pay 100%).

  27. Maryellen:

    You have raised some very relevant questions that have not been addressed by city council. The city’s large projects almost always exceed budget with the city obligated to pay up. The renewal of 220 St. is one example, and very recently the Haines Wharf park project was massively over budget with an additional claim from the contractor for $952,000 still to be resolved. At this point in time there cannot be a realistic budget for the roundabout, because Phil Williams has said that only 10% of the design has been completed.


  28. A follow up ( with thanks to Councilperson Bloom and Phil Williams ):
    The wait times/ idle times are not calculated by timing each car in the vehicle count. Instead the vehicle count, which was done at a “peak time” was used in a stardardized computer modeling software which generates the wait times. This explains to me, anyway, why my experience of the 5 Corners intersection is so different from the reports. Mr Williams also graciously explained that all the data regarding that intersection was gathered in 2009, and submitted for the Grant when he realized the Grant might fit for that intersection.
    So, I am less concerned than I was. Thanks again to Joan and Phil.

  29. No to the Roundabout expenditure. There was a fatality “downhill” from the 5-corner intersection at the curve on Main Street when I lived at Parkview Firs Condos. Traffic needs to stop at the intersection, not be allow to roll around without stopping then potentially speed down the hill.
    I never had difficulty walking nor driving in the area.
    Since the area is high density with condos on both sides of the hill west of the intersection, how are people going to merge out of those driveways if the traffic flows constantly as cars roll around the intersection?

  30. Ruby:

    The point that you have made in the following comment has not received enough attention:
    “Since the area is high density with condos on both sides of the hill west of the intersection, how are people going to merge out of those driveways if the traffic flows constantly as cars roll around the intersection?” During council’s debate of the roundabout, Council Member Plunkett, who has a condo near Five Corners, mentioned that often it’s only because of cars at the stop sign that he’s able to get out of his driveway onto Main St. Mr. Plunkett’s comment validates your remark.

    Council members Plunkett and Petso voted against building the roundabout. Council members Peterson, Buckshnis, and Fraley-Monillas supported building the roundabout.
    Contact one of the three if you’d like the issue reconsidered. You can email them at: counciladmin@ci.edmonds.wa.us


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