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Roundabout work could begin in June

by Susie Vasquez

Plans for a roundabout on Highway 88 and County Road will most likely proceed in June right after schools close for the year, according to Scott Magruder, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

State officials will be gathering counts at the busy intersection one more time in February, to determine whether a signal could be justified. If that justification can’t be made, they expect approval from county commissioners for a roundabout, said Fred Droes, chief traffic and safety engineer for the Department of Transportation.

“This is a high crash location,” he said. “We have to do something to improve safety and we believe the roundabout is a solution that satisfies all issues.”

Located at State Route 88 and County Road in Minden, the intersection provides access to Douglas High School, Carson Valley Swim Center, the new Carson Valley Meetinghouse for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Nevada Fitness, Douglas County Public Library, a Montessori school, dance studio, several office buildings and the East Fork Fire and Paramedic districts station.

A roundabout will provide a calming effect, slowing traffic to 15-20 mph in this busy intersection, Magruder said.

The project has been challenged by Minden residents and officials, who say multiple speed zones, heavy truck traffic and inexperienced drivers will hamper the roundabout’s operation.

Magruder said transportation officials will be setting up meetings with county commissioners, school officials, emergency response personnel and the public.

Roundabouts are becoming much more popular in the United States and a lot of technical information is available to make the transition smoother. The popularity of roundabouts will grow as residents get accustomed to using them, Magruder said.

“We feel very strongly, that this is the best solution,” he said. “More communities are using them effectively and they move traffic more safely and efficiently.”

A roundabout could allow for landscaping and possibly a theme, an opportunity to carry on the park-like setting at the town square,” Droes said. “Once it is built, there are no annual maintenance costs. A roundabout is maintenance-free.”

The project will be advertised in early April and should be completed by the end of summer. Costs are are estimated at $500,000, including curbs, gutters, sidewalks and special requirements for drainage, Droes said.

According to a 2000 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there is a 75 percent in injury crashes at roundabouts converted from stop signs or lights.

Roundabouts improve access to intersections for motorists approaching from minor roads and help reduce delays when volume is heavier on some approaches than others.

“The most serious kinds of crashes at conventional intersections are virtually eliminated by roundabouts,” the study said. “Crashes that do occur tend to be minor because traffic speeds are slower.”

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.