By the end of construction season this year, the Kenai Peninsula could see its first roundabouts.
The proposed plans for Binkley Street rehabilitation in Soldotna calls for mini roundabouts at the street’s intersections at Wilson Lane, Redoubt Avenue and Marydale Drive.
Kyle Kornelis, city engineer, and Joe McElroy, consultant with engineering and surveying firm SGM, Inc., presented the proposed solution for Binkley Street at Soldotna’s council meeting on Wednesday.
“Obviously (roundabouts) come with mixed reviews,” Kornelis said. “Some folks really like them, some folks don’t like them.”
McElroy said the idea of roundabouts came from the busy Wilson Lane intersection. With the poor sight distances and heavy traffic, he was surprised data didn’t show more accidents at the intersection.
“There’s much more screaming and honking and fingers that go up in this intersection because you just can’t see,” he said.
Any other traffic control device wouldn’t work as well as a roundabout solution, he said. And the mini roundabouts fit within the 60-foot right-of-way, which exists along the majority of the nearly 1-mile long street, he said.
As crews continued considering Binkley Street and conducted traffic counts, they realized roundabouts could be the best solution for the intersections at Redoubt Avenue and Marydale Drive, which can get backed up especially during rush hour, McElroy said.
He said Redoubt Avenue is a “painful four-way stop,” but probably doesn’t need a roundabout as badly as the other two intersections.
Each roundabout would be one-lane wide and medians would be constructed with gradual curbs allowing for semi trucks and other large vehicles to drive over them, if necessary.
“The reason why we raise (the medians) is because you don’t want your everyday traffic doing that,” McElroy said. “You want people in the flow of traffic in the lane they’re supposed to be in.”
He said roundabouts provide a safety buffer for pedestrians. Traffic will hit crosswalks about 30 feet before the actual roundabouts and other traffic. Pedestrians also only cross one lane of traffic at a time, he said.
“These roundabouts have been proven to be safer,” McElroy said. “That probably goes against a lot of people’s intuition because I think when you first go into a roundabout you think you’re going to die.”
He said the bulk of traffic on Binkley Street is commuter traffic and he thinks drivers will learn how to navigate the roundabouts quickly.
Along with three roundabouts, improvements to Binkley Street include repaving, widening sidewalks and landscaping.
The preliminary plans squeezed down the driving surface and bike lanes to give sidewalks more space. Creating a tighter driving area also helps to slow traffic, McElroy said.
The $2.6 million dollar project is 100 percent funded by state grants.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.