At least one city resident is concerned about the recommended addition of three roundabouts when a mile of State Street is reconstructed this year.
Statewide statistics show roundabouts reduce the number of serious accidents but increase the total number of crashes because they are confusing, Maryjo Cohen said during Monday night’s Eau Claire City Council meeting.
“The last thing we want is more crashes,” she said.
Cohen also opposes the recommendation to go from two lanes to one lane northbound going down the hill on State Street.
Heavy traffic volume makes sense to maintain two lanes down the hill, she said.
“Let’s keep that extra lane open and save some lives,” Cohen said.
About 50 city residents attended Monday’s council meeting to provide input on the State Street project, which stretches from the UW-Eau Claire campus to the southern city limits.
The project as proposed by city staff would replace existing stop-sign controlled intersections at Hamilton and MacArthur avenues and Lexington Boulevard with roundabouts.
Roundabouts would create more efficient travel flow, city engineer David Solberg told council members Monday.
There’s an average 27-second wait at State Street and Hamilton Avenue during peak travel times in the morning and evening, he said.
“There’s efficiency to be had at Hamilton Avenue,” Solberg said.
The worst delays are for people wanting to make left turns from MacArthur Avenue onto State Street during peak periods. The wait time now can range from three to five minutes. That would drop to five to ten seconds with a roundabout, Solberg said.
The State Street project was identified as a priority because of its present condition, especially on the south end of the project area, Solberg said.
“Utilities are at the age where they should be replaced,” he said.
Since last fall, Solberg said, more than 20 open houses and neighborhood association meetings have been held to get input on the project.
The most common concerns were speed of vehicles going down the hill, pedestrian safety, better accommodations for bicyclists and a good vehicle flow, he said.
“They didn’t want State Street to become a bottleneck,” he said.
The roundabout at Lexington Boulevard would be the only one to have multiple lanes, Solberg said.
To improve pedestrian safety at the Roosevelt Avenue intersection, which is close to the UW-Eau Claire campus, Solberg is recommending that a concrete island be built between traffic lanes on the intersection’s north side.
This would allow pedestrians to cross one lane of the busy road and stop in the middle to safely wait before crossing the other traffic lane, he said.
Rebuilding the roadway and replacing buried utility lines that are a century old in places give the project an estimated total price of $2.57 million.
Construction is slated to begin in June and wrap up as late as early December.
The council is scheduled to vote on the project at this afternoon’s meeting. Acting City Council President Andrew Werthmann asked Solberg if the vote could be delayed, to get questions answered, yet still have the project completed this year.
The project would still need to be designed and bid on by contractors, Solberg said.
“It would be my preference to get a direction on which way to go as soon as possible,” Solberg said. “This is a big project.”