In November 2007, we invited drivers and residents to review and comment on six improvement options for the SR 20 Sharpes Corner intersection near Anacortes. We wanted to take the pulse of the local communities that would be affected by the project before moving forward. The formal comment period ended Jan.4, 2008, with over 170 people providing comments and voting on which option they prefered.
The results are mixed; those who came to the open house or submitted an e-mail appear to favor a roundabout over the other five options, but are split when asked if they would specifically support a roundabout at Sharpes Corner.
When respondents were asked which improvement option they preferred, the roundabout garnered 35 percent of the votes, while the west-to-south flyover ramp received 21 percent of the votes. The remaining four options each received less than 10 percent of the votes. These statistics were compiled from the 100-plus responses received at the open house.
Similar results were tallied from the more than 70 e-mails that WSDOT received: 35 percent supported the roundabout, while the eastbound flyover came in second with 12 percent of the vote.
But, when respondents were asked if they would support the roundabout, 41 percent said yes and 39 percent said no.
|Texas T bypass
|West to south flyover
|Continous flow intersection
These results are not surprising, though the numbers of those in favor of the roundabout are higher than seen when roundabouts had first been proposed in other places. Roundabouts and previous surveys
(pdf 226 kb) on drivers’ views of roundabouts before and after construction conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety illustrates public opinion. Before construction, the number of drivers who were in favor of roundabouts was only 31 percent, and those strongly opposed was 41 percent.
The reasons most cited for concern were fear of the unknown: People initially prefer traffic signals and stop signs until they realize roundabouts allow them through the intersection safely without having to stop. Other concerns about safety and possibly being confused about where to go also dissipate with use.
In follow-up surveys, done after the roundabout was installed and drivers had a chance to use them, those who favored roundabouts increased to 63 percent and those strongly opposed dropped to 15 percent. Double left turn lane
The most popular “other” option, not included on WSDOT’s options list, suggested by those who attended the open house or submitted e-mails was to build a double left-turn lane towards Whidbey Island. We looked at this option, but dropped the idea when we realized that it would only improve the intersection for a few years. With regards to design standards, the intersection would actually begin to fail within 10 years if we only extended the turn lanes. That is half of the 20-year minimum requirement by federal and state agencies.
Extending the left turn lanes is not easy or cheap. We would still be required to buy property and undergo detailed environmental analysis and permitting. The estimated cost to extend the lanes is $4.1 million to $5.5 million, and it would take just about as long to design, buy property, permit, and advertise for bids as the other options we have suggested. The six other options we suggested will improve safety, reduce delays and meet the 20-year requirement for an acceptable level of service. Bicycle and pedestrian safety
A common concern expressed at the open house and in the website comments was the need for improved pedestrian and bicycle access. Bicycle and pedestrian safety are very important and we will consider specific safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians into our final design. We did not detail those improvements into each of our original designs because it would have been very costly and time consuming. We wanted to narrow our options down before moving forward with detailed designs.