Kennewick to consider its 22nd roundabout

Love them or hate them, roundabouts will continue to pop up around the Mid-Columbia.

Kennewick has 21 roundabouts, more than any city in Washington, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Another is nearing completion and the city council will consider awarding a contract to build No. 22 during a meeting tonight, said Evelyn Lusignan, the city's customer service manager.

Kennewick isn't the only city planning new roundabouts. Pasco and Richland are looking at new ones, and the state's first rural roundabout is being built on Highway 243 along the Columbia River between Mattawa and Desert Aire.

State transportation officials say roundabouts are becoming more common because they're cheaper to build and maintain and they reduce accidents.

Roundabouts are safer than four-way stops and less expensive to maintain than traffic signals, agreed Lusignan.

"Even when people aren't paying attention or yielding like they should, they are going slow," she said. "So there may be vehicle damage, but injuries go way down."

Going round in Kennewick

Kennewick's new roundabout at 45th Avenue and Olympia Street, part of a $4.3 million makeover to the southern part of Olympia Street, is expected to be finished soon, Lusignan said. Artwork is scheduled to be installed at the site today.

The council will consider another bid for a roundabout at Grandridge Boulevard and Young Street on Tuesday after rejecting three bids in January when they all came in above the engineer's estimate of $488,000.

The project was re-bid with a new engineer's estimate -- $524,000 -- but the four bids again came back higher.

Still, Kennewick staff have recommended the city sign a contract with Inland Asphalt Co. of Richland for $560,000. The roundabout is partly funded with a $380,000 federal grant.

The Grandridge Boulevard and Young Street roundabout will feature a sculpture by local artist Dave Mullins called Triumph of Harmony over Time. It includes representations of the three rivers, the sun, music notes and three dancers and is expected to greet visitors to the city's entertainment district, Lusignan said.

Art has already been installed at two roundabouts in the Southridge area, as well as at the traffic circle where Clearwater, Badger and Leslie roads meet.

"The opportunity to place art in roundabouts reduces maintenance costs while providing an appealing addition to our community for both visitors and residents," Lusignan said.

Design work also has been completed for one other roundabout in Kennewick, at the intersection of Ridgeline Drive and Zintel Way in Southridge, but no date has been set for construction, Lusignan said.

Design work is nearing completion on a roundabout in the Five Corners area, and is also under way for two more roundabouts, as part of the Steptoe Street to Hildebrand Road connection, Lusignan said.

Kennewick has 19 city-owned roundabouts, plus roundabouts built by the state just off Highway 240 at the blue bridge and the Columbia Park Trail and Steptoe Street intersection.

Circles in Pasco, Richland

Pasco only has one city-owned roundabout, at the intersection of North Third and Fourth avenues and Marie Street, near Volunteer Park.

Pasco Public Works Director Ahmad Qayoumi said some others were built by developers in west Pasco subdivisions.

Pasco is looking at a roundabout for the intersection of Road 76 and Wrigley Drive, just off Road 68, Qayoumi said. Officials had considered building one at the intersection of Court Street and Road 68, but determined that would mean acquiring too much land from private owners.

Richland has no official roundabouts. City spokeswoman Trish Herron said the circle at Lee Boulevard in the Parkway area, which features a sculpture called Tree of Seasons, is considered a "traffic calming device."

But the Richland City Council will consider hiring Spokane-based David Evans and Associates for $56,000 to look at intersection alternatives along Duportail Street during a meeting tonight.

Herron said that could include roundabouts at the intersections with Wright Avenue and Thayer Drive.

Rural roundabout

The $1.25 million roundabout under construction on Highway 243 in Mattawa is the first in the state to be built in a rural area, said Josh Patrick, project engineer for the Department of Transportation.

But he doesn't expect it to be the last.

"This is the kind of direction we get overall from Olympia," he said of the state's propensity for building the traffic circles. "They are quite a bit cheaper. You don't have a signal you have to maintain. We have a real significant reduction in accidents."

The roundabout was put in after several serious crashes, some fatal, at the intersection with Road 24 just north of Desert Aire, Patrick said. It requires drivers to slow to 25 mph.

Though it is not yet complete, the roundabout has been open for a couple weeks, Patrick said. Engineers started designing the project three years ago.

"Most of the folks have made it through without any issues," he said.

The department of transportation stationed information kiosks about the roundabout at a couple locations in Mattawa so residents could learn about it before it opened, he said.

One feature that differs from some city roundabouts is that trucks can drive across the concrete circle when turning.

The department has one new roundabout planned in Benton or Franklin counties, said WSDOT spokeswoman Meagan McFadden.

That's the proposed roundabout at the intersection of highways 224 and 225 near Benton City. The department is still seeking $3.5 million for the roundabout, which is part of the planned Red Mountain interchange off Interstate 82.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom