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Roundabout proposed for 56-77-150 junction

Staff writer

The Kansas Department of Transportation has decided what it wants to do about the intersection of U.S. 56, U.S. 77, and K-150 — put in a roundabout.

KDOT officials said they could have the roundabout completed in two years. They say they have the funding for the project and the authority to start construction.

However, KDOT is waiting to start the process on the roundabout to gauge public opinion in the area. If the response is overwhelmingly negative, public affairs manager David Greiser said the current intersection functions as it should and the department could save $3 million for the cost of the project.

KDOT officials passed the first hurdle Monday when they received support from Marion County Commission. The commission gave the proposal its support, saying the project makes sense.

Greiser said the intersection is the most dangerous intersection in Kansas; it has the highest accident rate per capita in the state. He has been part of a team with Marion office engineer Joe Palic and construction manager Mervin Lare to find a solution to the intersection since a fatal accident in November.

They, and a committee of eight people, hired Tran Systems, the same company that designed the roundabout of U.S. 50 and 77 in Florence. The group asked for eight designs. They are in agreement that the enhanced roundabout is the safest and most economically responsible option.

The plan for U.S. 56, 77, and K-150 intersection is an enhanced roundabout. An enhanced roundabout is a standard roundabout, like the set up in Florence, inside of a larger quadrant of one-way streets. The one-way outer roads, which Lare said will be about 16 feet wide, would be constructed first and serve as the detour route around the roundabout to be placed at current intersection.

The goal of the roundabout is to reduce speeds and in the process reduce deadly accidents, Palic said. He said roundabouts are proven to force drivers to slow down. The decrease in speed allows drivers more reaction time and less violent collisions.

When the inner roundabout is completed, the outer roads would be reserved for oversized load trailers. Palic said the outer roads could accommodate a truck hauling a 200-foot long load without rear steering.

Trucks carrying oversized loads cannot traverse the roundabout in Florence without closing the road and letting the truck pass over the center section. With wind farm production coming to Hutchinson and other large pieces of machinery, like oil tankers, traveling through the county in the future, KDOT officials did not want to create an economic barrier.

“We need to anticipate that there’s a company that wants to move to Marion that may need super load access,” Marion City Administrator Doug Kjellin said

Regular vehicles will be restricted from traversing the outer roads. The plan for deterring drivers for taking these roads has yet to be decided. Palic and Greiser discussed putting up speed bumps that a super load truck would be able to handle but a regular vehicle would not want to navigate.

Other options were putting up green grass grids around the road to make it blend into the surroundings, putting up stop signs, and putting up warning signs restricting normal vehicles from the outer roads.

“Most people want to obey the law,” Greiser said.

Greiser, Palic, and Lare presented two main options to the commission. They were the enhanced roundabout and a diamond interchange.

The diamond interchange would require KDOT to build a bridge over one of the highways, purchase about 12 acres of right of way area for the exit and entrance areas, and then pave those ramps.

They estimated interchange costs to be between $10 and $12 million.

They estimated the enhanced roundabout would cost about $3 to $4 million. KDOT would only need to purchase 6 acres of farmland from landowners on each side of U.S. 77 to accommodate the project.

Last modified July 19, 2012

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