Williams just happened to meet Montrose City Public Works Director Jim Hougnon the day before and offered his “services” to be the first through the roundabout after Mayor Pro Tem Carol McDermott cut a big yellow ribbon with oversized scissors.
Williams was followed around the intersection by a school bus, a heavy-duty snowplow, and the city’s biggest fire truck, with its siren drowning out Williams' horn. Hougnon said he wanted to show that the roundabout would not slow truck traffic, as some had claimed in the past.
“There are four ingredients to make it [a roundabout] worth doing,” Hougnon said. “It has to be effective, efficient, safe and economical. Without those four, then we find some other way to do the intersection.”
The roundabout is part of a much larger citywide improvement plan that includes a similar roundabout that was quietly opened at the intersection of North Ninth Street and Grand Avenue last week, with no fanfare.
“That are is not a real heavily traveled area, but it will be when Grand is fully developed,” Hougnon said. “It was a four-way stop and right now you go down there and there’s not much traffic, but at some point it will be a heavily traveled road.”
Woodgate and Ogden roads are already heavily traveled. Woodgate Road starts at Townsend Avenue (U.S. Hwy. 550) and generally runs diagonally south, crossing Ogden Road, which runs east-west and also connects perpendicularly to U.S. Hwy. 550 further south.
“It all came together for this intersection,” Hougnon said. “The big thing is efficiency, and people will find it much easier to get through, particularly through school rushes, and children will be able to walk more safely, with only one lane of traffic to cross.”
The principal of nearby Cottonwood Elementary is “thrilled” with the new roundabout, Hougnon said, which was one of the most difficult intersections to navigate in the city, especially during times of high traffic.
According to information on the city’s website at www.cityofmontrose.org, because the Ogden Road is near Dry Cedar Creek, it was built with a skew to the north as it approached Woodgate. When the city constructed the part of Ogden Road between Townsend Avenue and Woodgate Road, it was impossible to align it with the existing intersection. As a result, “the two legs of Ogden Road [were] offset by 200 feet,” and since Woodgate runs at an angle, a 90-degree intersection was also impossible. Both Ogden and Woodgate roads also cross Dry Cedar Creek at about a 45-degree angle.
Roundabouts aren’t for every intersection, but these two new ones will relieve both present and future traffic problems, Hougnon said.
Because these are the city’s first roundabouts, and the one at Woodgate and Ogden will instantly be heavily used, Hougnon suggest that people familiarize themselves with roundabout “rules of the road,” also listed on the city’s website.
The website also has information on the benefits of roundabouts, quoting Randy Rodgers, executive editor of Sustainable Cities Network, who said roundabouts not only save money, they save lives.
“Roundabouts save lives because they prevent vehicles form speeding through intersections and causing the deadliest and most common type of crash in an urban setting,” Rodgers wrote. “When roundabouts replace traditional signaled intersections, studies show crashes at those intersections are reduced by 76 percent and deaths by 90 percent.”
The city may install more roundabouts in the future, Hougnon said, but each will be considered on a case-by-case basis as to what works best in that particular location.