CEDAR RAPIDS — The City Council agreed Tuesday to accept a $514,160 state clean-air grant to help buildthe first traffic roundabout on a city street here at the intersection of Cottage Grove Avenue SE and Forest Drive SE in front of Washington High School.
However, council member Monica Vernon noted that the council reserves the right to change its mind about building the roundabout as the city conducts public education sessions to see what the public thinks of the idea.
Vernon noted that the intersection is near both a senior living center and the high school, and as a result, is used by some of the city’s older and youngest drivers. She said she’s already fielded calls from seniors with questions about the roundabout.
Council member Ann Poe said the four-way-stop intersection at Cottage Grove and Forest is a “difficult” intersection now, and she noted that students and neighborhood walkers use the intersection a lot.
Doug Wilson, a project manager in the city’s Public Works Department, said pedestrians will cross streets before the roundabout at the intersection and will not pass through it. The design will feature pedestrian islands where pedestrians can stand halfway across the street while vehicles pass, Wilson said.
Council member Pat Shey recalled car trips to the East Coast in years past where he nervously confronted large roundabouts.
Wilson said larger roundabouts really are multiple-lane traffic “circles.” He said the city’s proposed roundabout will be single lane and will require motorists to yield to vehicles coming from the left.
Vernon said she expected that the city would make its “maiden voyage” with a roundabout both attractive and safe.
“We got to take it one step at a time,” she said.
Wilson said roundabouts cut down on delays and fuel emissions without sacrificing safety. The Cottage Grove and Forest intersection currently sees backups and delays at peak traffic times and also has been a spot of a number of traffic accidents, he said.
Shey asked Wilson if the roundabout was a coming traffic trend, and Wilson said they were becoming more prevalent across the country.
Wilson told Vernon that the city would need to purchase little property for the roundabout and likely would need to purchase more if the city were to transform the intersection with traffic signals and right-turn lanes.
The city will contribute $128,540 of the cost of the roundabout project, which is slated to be built in the summer of 2014.
Marion, Coralville, Iowa City and Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids are among places where roundabouts can be found.