Cities plan to roll out more roundabouts; issues, opinions

Intersection of 200 East 400 South, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 2, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Often used for traffic control as an aesthetically pleasing alternative to stoplights, roundabouts are also one of Washington County’s most contentious community issues. The cities of Ivins and St. George have three roundabout projects in the works that have already caused controversy and debate, from property access to traffic safety issues.

Ivins roundabout

The City of Ivins is planning the delayed construction of a roundabout at 200 East and 400 South in anticipation of future heavy traffic flow.

Intersection of 400 East and Tabernacle Street, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Intersection of 400 East and Tabernacle Street, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

“It is the intersection of two major collector streets, which means that stop signs may not be sufficient to control the traffic flow 15 to 20 years from now,” City Engineer Chuck Gillette said. “Ivins has a provision that indicates roundabouts are preferred over traffic signals.”

The roundabout has not yet been designed, but is estimated to cost around $300,000 and will be funded by the city’s impact fees.

“The project is currently in early, early planning,” Gillette said. “It is not likely to impact anybody in the general community for a long time.”

A one-acre plot of commercial land owned by April Beardall sits on the southeast corner of the intersection, along with an agricultural field owned by David Hafen via the Hafen Family Trust on the northeast, the Mountain Shadow Commercial Center on the northwest and a private residence on the southwest.

Property access issue

Currently, the intersection is not wide enough to accommodate a roundabout. Construction would require the city to purchase a portion of the corner properties to build upon through an access easement, also called right-of-way.

The roundabout is planned to encroach on Beardall and Hafen’s properties, as they are undeveloped. Access to the businesses in the commercial center, specifically the Red Mountain Market, would be impacted, while the residence would remain unaffected.

Though actual construction of the roundabout could be as far as two decades away, Beardall has requested that the city make an official decision now, as she plans to sell or develop her property in the near future. She has been working closely with the city since February to make the issue a priority.

“It’s time to make a move on this property and get this resolved as soon as possible,” she said.

“Ms. Beardall has requested that the city make a determination and pursue acquisition of the necessary right-of-way if a roundabout is indeed going to be the choice of traffic control for the intersection. This seems to me to be a fair request since it is hampering her ability to market her property,” Gillette said.

The easement would cost roughly $75,000, with funding supplied by the Washington County Council of Governments corridor preservation fund. The price will vary depending on the condition of the road and property appraisal.

“Ms. Beardall has indicated that she would be willing to (allow the easement,) assuming that the appraised value seems reasonable,” Gillette said. “Mr. Hafen has indicated that he would have to see the appraised value first and that he would like to maintain a right to farm the field until it is time to install the roundabout.”

“I’m neutral on the actual roundabout, as long as I make money off my property,” Beardall said.

Hafen declined to comment on the matter.

“I am in support of a four-way stop rather than a roundabout,” said Todd Muse, owner of the Red Mountain Market. “I’d like people to stop at the intersection, look at the market and perhaps decide they want to come in. And I certainly don’t want to have to remodel my access.”

The roundabout was a dominating issue at the Aug. 1 meeting of the Ivins City Council. Council members Cheyne McDonald and Steven Roberts debated the necessity of a roundabout even 20 years in the future, with McDonald asserting that failure to plan for sufficient traffic control measures could negatively impact the city. Though Gillette said it is entirely possible that the intersection may never receive enough traffic to require improvement beyond a four-way stop, 200 East is indicated as having high congestion possibility in the Ivins Master Transportation Plan.

The council eventually decided to conduct an intersection-specific traffic study focusing on projected growth, in hopes of shedding further light on the issue. The final decision remains pending.

“I think the city has the people’s best interests at heart and have made a wise decision to have the traffic study done,” Beardall said. “But if they can’t make a concrete decision after it’s completed, they’re welcome to purchase all of the property from me and do with it what they will in the future. I certainly don’t want to have this going on in 20 years.”

St. George roundabouts

The City of St. George is currently planning the construction of two roundabouts, located at 400 East and Tabernacle Street and 600 West and Tonaquint Drive, with the goal of addressing long-standing transportation issues at these intersections.

“The primary reason for a roundabout at (400 East and Tabernacle Street) is to demarcate this intersection as the eastern boundary of the downtown St. George area and to assist motorists and pedestrians traveling east and west on Tabernacle Street to cross the wide, seven-lane road at 400 East safely. The intersection does not warrant a traffic signal but is one of the widest neighborhood roads in the city, making it sometimes difficult to cross,” Assistant to the City Manager Marc Mortensen said.

“The motivating factor for a roundabout at (the 600 West and Tonaquint Drive) intersection is to improve pedestrian access and provide for safer left and right-hand turn movements for motorists without completely realigning 600 West, as it intersects Tonaquint Drive. The intersection does not warrant a traffic signal but does pose serious safety concerns due to the number of conflicting turn movements. This project will also provide a sidewalk for pedestrians that will connect into the trail system.”

The southwest corner of 400 East and Tabernacle Street is home to Sandi’s Antiques, the northwest a private residence, the northeast Dixie Chiropractic and southeast Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship.

The intersection of 600 West and Tonaquint Drive is T-shaped, with a plot of undeveloped land on the west corner, the Southgate Golf Club driving range on the east and private residences to the south. None of these properties encroach upon the land that will be used to build the roundabouts and no right-of-way is required.

“These properties will not be affected in any way by the construction of these roundabouts, aside from possible delays in access,” Public Works Director Larry Bulloch said. “We ask for the public’s patience and cooperation during the construction. We’re working with the property owners to ensure these developments benefit all.”

On Aug. 1, the St. George City Council approved a $73,000 bid from H.W. Lochner, Inc. to design both roundabouts, which are expected to be built sometime in 2014. As the design process is ongoing, the exact cost of the roundabouts cannot be calculated, but Bulloch said a typical one costs around $200,000; these will be funded entirely by the 2013-14 city budget.

Community opinion

Roundabouts are a sensitive issue among Washington County’s communities. During the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Snow Canyon Parkway and Snow Canyon Drive in the spring of 2013, some citizens outspokenly protested the “unnecessary” feature, including an 18-foot, $58,000 bronze centerpiece currently being developed by world-renowned sculptor Edward Hlavka.

A string of accidents, among them the overturning of a semitrailer carrying shrimp brine flakes at the Pioneer Road and Brigham Road intersection on June 9, have led some residents to speculate that roundabouts may be unwisely designed and even increase the danger of passing through certain intersections.

“When is St. George ever going to learn that these roundabouts are the biggest reason for accidents? I just returned from northern New Jersey; there are no roundabouts (there) and traffic flows much better,” St. George resident Carol DeMille said. “Maybe we need to send our roads people out east to see how it should work.”

Bulloch said that the City of St. George recently received a public request for improvement of traffic safety at the 600 West and Tonaquint Drive intersection, which he believes will be satisfied with the construction of a roundabout.

“There has been significant support for roundabouts in the community,” Gillette said.

Though neither Ivins nor St. George have received any public opposition to their ongoing roundabout projects, discussion is ardent within the community.

Intersection of 600 West and Tonaquint Drive, St. George, Utah, Aug. 5, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Intersection of 600 West and Tonaquint Drive, St. George, Utah, Aug. 5, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

“I’m very familiar with (the 200 East 400 South) intersection and I don’t see how they could possibly build one that would be of adequate size,” Ivins resident Annettie Cannavale said. “The intersection is far narrower than the other three roundabouts in town, which are tight as is, especially the new one on Snow Canyon Parkway. I don’t think a roundabout belongs at this intersection and I’d much rather see a four-way stop there.”

“Both of the proposed locations make sense,” St. George resident Dan Lester said. “I’m generally for roundabouts. They’re efficient ways of moving traffic in many places, and work fine if people pay attention and follow the rules.”

Lester also offered his opinion on existing roundabout locations: “We do have a couple already, on Silicon Way and another by the car dealerships on Hilton Drive, that are roundabouts to nowhere; waiting on future growth, I guess.”

“I think roundabouts have their place sometimes, but we have enough for now in Ivins,” Cannavale said. “I think we should concentrate on finishing and repairing the roads we have first.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Intersection of 200 East 400 South, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 2, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Intersection of 200 East 400 South, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 2, 2013 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

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10 Comments

  • Who Dat August 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    As nutty as the city is about these roundabouts, I’m surprised they didn’t plan one in the middle of the runway or for these interstate modifications.

  • Alvin August 6, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    First of all, Carol DeMilles statement is false. The FHWA Safety website states that round a bouts reduce fatalities by 90% vs signalized intersections. they also reduce ALL injury accidents by 76%, and reduce all accidents by 35%. They also flow traffic quite well regardless of what people say about them. Just pay attention and jump into the traffic flow when there is an opening. It’s not that hard to do.

    There is really no basis to argue the effectiveness and safety of roundabouts vs intersections other that some folks just don’t like them. And that just comes down to opinion vs. facts

  • Carol DeMille August 7, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Are you kidding me….#! People in Utah do not know how to merge…that is what they have had to put lights to get onto the freeway and when was the last time you tried merging into a round a bout? If I can successfully merge into NYC and NJ traffic but have issues here because there are people that don’t understand what merging means….Merging means you let every other person in…it works quite well but Utah has still to learn that driving technique. For a State that perceives itself as friendly…that is only true when not on the ROAD!!! I am an extremely literal person and those stats….not sure what round a bout they were gathering their information from….None of the ones I use….Sorry…Can’t convince ME on this ONE!!!

    • Alvin August 7, 2013 at 7:54 am

      Sorry, no factual evidence. Still just an opinion.

  • Betty August 7, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Just because people do not know HOW to merge doesn’t mean the roundabouts are not useful. Perhaps the city (of St. George) could include insert a brochure into our utility bill showing the proper way to execute traveling through a roundabout. Basically, we all learned this in kindergarten – take turns! You must slow as you enter and take turns. You cannot just barrel in and demand your way. Perhaps they should put vests on police and have them stand in the area and direct traffic for a few days. Or even better, shoot a video from each roundabout, place on YouTube and the city’s Facebook page. Education is the best way to solve this problem and not avoiding a perfectly good plan just because most Utahans are ignorant about the proper way to drive through a roundabout.

    • Gunther August 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

      If there are people out there who struggle with round a bouts, please turn in your drivers license and keys to your vehicle now. Thank you, your cooperation is appreciated.

    • DB August 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      I see your points but twice this summer, I’ve witnesses RV’s from Cali going the wrong way in the Pioneer Rd roundabout (not very successfully, I might add). I’m very much in favor of the two proposed projects in St George but have no opinion on the one in Ivins. Just PLEASE don’t put any more adjacent to a truck stop, like the mess near WalMart.

  • DoubleTap August 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    The city can’t even run an animal shelter properly; how do you expect it to run traffic efficiently?? $200,000.00 for one round-about, but no funds for an animal shelter? Does anyone know if Mayor McArhur have a concrete business also?

  • zd August 8, 2013 at 7:34 am

    I am very happy with the round-abouts that have been put in Ivins. They are much smoother, quicker, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. And as a bonus you don’t have the lights and eyesores that comes with a traffic light. All the studies I have read support that they are safer and less expensive in the long run than traffic signals. If you visit foreign countries, there are thousands of them. Get used to it.

  • M and M cookies May 14, 2014 at 8:16 am

    If you go to Europe, there at roundabouts everywhere, and they work just fine.. A lot of the problem is people don,t use blinkers when they go around the roundabout, but they are clearly marked with signs, arrows, I think they are well planned.but landscaping should be kept shorter so ou can see if someone is coming the wrong way..maybe cameras should be there to see who is going the wrong way…

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