Flagstaff City Council has instructed staff to move forward with a controversial roundabout project after lengthy discussions at Tuesday’s meeting.
The board also requested further analysis of certain project security points at Lockett, Cedar Avenue and Fourth Street, but the current design was ultimately deemed acceptable.
Construction of the roundabout is expected to begin in 2023.
Tuesday’s discussion began with a recap of the roundabout project, which is funded in part by a 2018 Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) grant for traffic safety improvements. The grant was awarded because the current signalized intersection there had been deemed problematic due to its high frequency of collisions. According to the agenda summary submitted by project manager Jeremy DeGeyter, the new roundabout was designed to “improve safety, slow speeds, help avoid corner accidents and add a pedestrian crossing. at the 4th section of the intersection”.
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Over the past two weeks, public participants have expressed concern about the safety of the new roundabout design, particularly in relation to its use by children.
The intersection is located between three schools and a public library, and currently sees a high volume of foot traffic consisting of children.
Similar concerns were reiterated by audience attendees at Tuesday’s meeting after DeGeyter delivered a presentation that broke down the safety benefits of the roundabout design.
“I think we can all intuitively agree that children present particular challenges when crossing a street,” DeGeyter said. “The main thing we want to achieve in the area of a school is to reduce those speeds.”
According to DeGeyter’s presentation, vehicle speed is the single most important factor in crash frequency and severity. The current roundabout design will allow a speed of around 22 mph in the ‘fastest lane’, but most users expect us to be going between 15 and 20 mph. Reduced speed, combined with other roundabout features such as improved sightlines, could reduce total collisions by 35%, pedestrian collisions by 45%, injury collisions by 76 % and 90% deaths, even in school zones.
“In 1990, there were no roundabouts near schools,” DeGeyter said. “Since then, we have installed 160 roundabouts near schools across the country. To date, no serious injuries have been reported. »
Nonetheless, audience participants argued that the roundabout was a bad idea.
“Do I think this intersection can be safe? Yes, absolutely,” Erica Martin said. “Do I feel that a roundabout is a safer solution? Not at all.”
Other attendees from Pine Forest School – which will lose part of its schoolyard under the current design – expressed disdain for an encroaching roadway.
“Our green space is very important to us,” said teacher Johanna Peyton. “We don’t want to lose him. I don’t know what else to say. I just plead from the bottom of my heart.
Pine Forest School executive director Cindy Roe expressed concern that the construction schedule would hurt the charter school’s ability to attract new students.
“Spring is our registration time,” Roe said. “When we tear up this area next year, I want everyone to consider the impact it will have on our registration.”
Following the audience’s participation, the city council’s discussion began with a statement from Vice Mayor Miranda Sweet, who spoke in defense of the substantial research conducted by city staff.
“As we enter this conversation, I want to remind everyone that we have traffic engineers working in the city who have put in countless hours on this project,” Sweet said. “Last time I checked, those of us sitting here are not traffic engineers, and I’m sure none of us can say we’re experts. What I can tell you is that our engineers live here, have families here, and to assume that the staff who work hard for our community wouldn’t have the interests of kids, bikes, pedestrians, cars I find kinda offensive.”
Much of the Council’s discussion circulated around the possibility of ‘tweaking’ the design to improve safety features. Adjustments would be difficult, traffic engineer Jeff Bauman explained, because the design already represented a delicate “balancing of competing interests” where an adjustment of one element could impact serviceability elsewhere in the design. Further, he explained that any substantial design changes would trigger new intergovernmental agreements between the City of Flagstaff and ADOT.
Council member Adam Shimoni expressed personal discomfort with the current design and said he would not show support moving forward. The remaining majority of Council agreed to go ahead with the design with the further request that staff explore the raised crosswalks and crosswalk beacons on all four legs of the intersection, the latter being estimated add $750,000 to the project.
“Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Mayor Paul Deasy. “This is, as designed now, more secure than the current intersection. This is data.
The property acquisition ordinance required for the roundabout project is scheduled for its second reading on June 7. Public information meetings are tentatively scheduled for mid to late August, with exact dates to be determined.