Roundabout on the brink of permanecy

The roundabout at Fifth Street and Edmonds Drive is about to become permanent, despite a cost more than $85,000 higher than its estimate and an accident rate double the previous year's.

There were seven accidents in the intersection between April 1998 and March 1999 and 15 accidents between April 1999 and March 2000. Of the seven accidents before the roundabout, only one accident resulted in an injury. Of the 15 accidents since the roundabout was built as a Nevada Department of Transportation experiment in April 1999, there have been two accidents with injuries, three hit-and-runs and one driving under the influence accident that resulted in an injury, said Kathie Heath, business manager at the Carson City Sheriff's Department.

Despite the numbers, the roundabout is worth the extra money and should keep traffic congestion at a minimum, transportation officials said.

According to a test performed by the state, before the roundabout was put in, traffic in the intersection would back up at the four-way stop with up to a 20 minute wait in some directions. The roundabout dropped the wait to a minute. That level of service is one of the reasons transportation officials want to see the roundabout stay.

Commission engineer Harvey Brotzman said one of the problems with the existing roundabout is that traffic going from north to south doesn't slow down enough. The new design of the roundabout should correct the problem, he said. Drivers are also unfamiliar with the yield-to-the-left concept of the roundabout, which also results in confusion and accidents, he said.

The Carson City Regional Transportation Commission will discuss the roundabout and its extra costs Wednesday. They are also being asked to approve an agreement between Washoe County, the Nevada Department of Transportation and the city for a transit system between Reno and Carson.

City supervisors have the final say on whether or not the roundabout will be a permanent addition to the city. It will cost $205,724. The roundabout was estimated at $120,000 when city transportation officials decided to make it permanent in September 1999. A stop light for the intersection is estimated at $180,000.

The transportation commission had a budget of $150,000 for the project, and the extra money will come from the commission's year-end savings, RTC Chairman Jon Plank said.

"I'm disappointed at the underestimation on the expected costs," Plank said. "We could have made it cheaper if we'd eliminated some of the fancies like the water line (for future landscaping) and the colored concrete. But we can't negotiate our way out of that with the contractor, and we'd have to go back out to bid."

Transportation commissioner Steve Reynolds lives on Fifth Street and travels through the roundabout daily.

"As someone who had travel through there, the roundabout is a lot easier than the four way stop," Reynolds said. "Traffic keeps moving. It does need to be better designed. The accidents may be occurring because of a lot of cases of overconfidence. People are going a lot faster than the roundabout was meant to be traveled."

Brotzman said that between the design, public bid and construction processes, a stop light for the intersection would be eight months away, and the city wants to finish the intersection improvements while school is out. The stop lights also cost up to $6,000 to maintain yearly mostly due to electrical charges. Extra concrete costs for the roundabout were heavy factors in the raised price, but roundabouts cost almost nothing to maintain, Brotzman said.

If approved by city supervisors, the roundabout should be completed by July 31.

- Commissioners will also discuss an agreement which will provide public transportation between Carson City and Reno.

The Nevada Department of Transportation and the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission teamed up to fund and oversee the portion of the transit system between Washoe and Douglas counties. Carson City is being asked to help market the program and to help choose and monitor bus stops.

The state received $840,000 federal money to be used over two years as part of the federal welfare to work program, and Washoe County will kick in $100,000 of congestion, mitigation and air quality money.

The transit system will be open to everyone even though the bread and butter of the system will be commuters and transporting those without transportation get to an area where they work or can find work.

Backers say it would reduce pollution, ease the stress of driving and would help reduce the number of vehicles on the highway both for people who live in Reno but work in Carson City or vice versa or for folks to the south who want to go to Reno to shop.

The system will eventually serve Douglas County. The system is expected to be running by the end of July or early August.

If you go:

What: Carson City Regional Transportation Commission meeting

When: Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.

Where: the Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. William St.


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