WINNEMUCCA — While everyone agreed something should be done with the intersection of Bridge and Haskell Streets, neither residents nor the Winnemucca City Council thought that “something” should be a roundabout.
Having met with representatives of the Nevada Department of Transportation on Tuesday (Jan. 10), at least members of the council are beginning to think it’s not such a bad idea.
Subject to accidents and congestion, the intersection has long been a problem. The City of Winnemucca offered to install a traffic light, at its own expense, but the street is technically in the jurisdiction of the state, whose engineers preferred a roundabout.
Addressing the council was Randy Hesterlee, the assistant district engineer, who explained while the state’s analysis concluded action should be taken at the intersection – they weren’t convinced that meant the installation of a traffic light.
The goal of Nevada’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan was to reduce crashes, he pointed out, and to that end a roundabout was the better choice.
The council had multiple concerns with the roundabout including: pedestrian safety, high foot traffic from the nearby Winnemucca Jr. High School, concern the roundabout would be too small because it’s boxed in by private property, and has railroad tracks nearby.
Hesterlee addressed each concern.
The obvious benefit of a roundabout, he said, is that it slows traffic. Even if there is a little fender bender, the folks exchange paint and go home. That’s in stark contrast to at least three recent accidents in which passing cars on Bridge Street were T-boned by cars on Haskell Street crossing Bridge.
In places that have roundabouts, there are fewer and less-serious crashes.
Hesterlee showed photos to illustrate why roundabouts are actually safer for pedestrians. He pointed out at a traditional crosswalk pedestrians have multiple lanes of traffic to cross, but a roundabout offers a single lane of travel to cross before a refuge then another lane of travel to cross before safety.
Plus, traffic is moving slower through the roundabout, which increases pedestrian safety, and motorists are more likely to see pedestrians they’re approaching at a curve, as opposed to those standing at a sharp 90 degree angle.
As an example, Hasterlee told the council of an intersection by a school in Vermont where there was a significant number of vehicle v’s pedestrian accidents a year. They put in a roundabout at that intersection and there hasn’t been a single pedestrian accident in seven years.
While the council was concerned the roundabout would have to be small, as the intersection is boxed in by private property, and therefore could not handle the large trucks (sometimes with one or two trailers in tow), Hesterlee was able to demonstrate the roundabout would be a size appropriate for large trucks.
Trucks with trailers actually turn into a circle easier than some other vehicles, such as fire trucks.
Hasterlee showed a video clip of a fire truck maneuvering a roundabout by simply driving over the curb and up onto the center circle. The roundabout is actually designed to allow large public safety vehicles to do just that, he said.
He also assured the council there would be space for vehicles to pull over for passing public safety vehicles.
One of the concerns NDOT had was the proximity of the railroad tracks to the intersection. They didn’t want to a situation where a car was backed up onto the tracks with the possibility of a train coming along.
However, NDOT’s study of the intersection showed cars were only backed up an average 130 feet – even at peak hours. The railroad track signal is 200 feet from the intersection.
While NDOT was able to demonstrate the safety of a roundabout, the cost was no advantage.
NDOT estimated the price at about $1.8 million over the estimated $359,000 a traffic light would cost.
Hasterlee explained the price was high because it was better to put everything in and estimate high as opposed to estimating low and finding themselves without enough money for the project.
The City of Winnemucca has $350,000 to put towards the project; the rest will be paid for by the state.
Hasterlee also said the roundabout would be cheaper to maintain in the long run than the traffic light.
The meeting between the Council and NDOT was informational only and no action was taken.
Councilman Rich Stone concluded the meeting by recommending a training session for locals who may not be used to roundabouts.
Hasterlee was joined at the meeting by Kevin Lee, District III Engineer, and Dave Lindeman, District III Assistant Engineer, of the Winnemucca Office.