Stop protesting the roundabout
After enduring a lengthy road improvement project on Colorado Highway 340 this year, it’s understandable that some residents of the Redlands may be dreading the prospect of more traffic delays stemming from a proposed roundabout project.
Opponents seem convinced that this is some kind of bureaucratic boondoggle involving unnecessary spending and tone-deaf transporation officials. But it’s not a political problem. It’s a public-safety problem.
The intersection of the Redlands Parkway and Highway 340 is dangerous enough to qualify for grant funding from the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. There have been 28 crashes at the signalized intersection in five years — 18 of which could have been avoided with a roundabout, according to transportation officials.
In the fall of 2010, the Colorado Department of Transportation solicited input for the top three priority intersections from cities and counties around the region. The city of Grand Junction submitted Highway 340 and Redlands Parkway based on the number of crashes that had occurred there.
In 2012, both the city and CDOT pursued Federal Hazard Elimination Safety funding for a roundabout and jointly committed to a partnership to move the project forward. The city handled the survey and design and CDOT secured the construction funding.
Since then the plan has been presented to the Technical Advisory Committee of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City Council and the public — twice.
The main thrust of these presentations has emphasized safety. Roundabouts are simply much safer than signalized intersections.
Doing nothing at the intersection would result in 181 accidents and 148 injuries between now and 2040, according to CDOT’s predictive models. An improved signal would drop the number to 122 in both categories. A roundabout drops the number of injuries to 33 in the next 15 years — a four-fold decrease from what would happen by leaving the intersection the way it is. In the past five years there have been no fatal accidents at roundabouts in CDOT Region 3.
What’s the argument against the roundabout? People may not like them, but they keep traffic moving without electronic operation, which saves operational costs. In our view, the inconvenience of construction isn’t a strong enough reason to put people’s safety at risk.
Not building a roundabout won’t save taxpayer money. That money is earmarked for safety upgrades. If it’s not spent here, it’ll get spent somewhere. Opponents should stop making CDOT defend a decision made prudently in the interest of public safety.