Roundabout Research



I commend City Commissioner Karen McCulloh for sticking to her convictions on the roundabout issue through the very end of her term. I still believe that, based on facts, the three commissioners who voted "no" on the previous vote for a modern roundabout at North Manhattan and Kimball Avenues made a poor choice and wasted an estimated $430,000 of our money on the second best choice - a traffic signal.

However, this may still be too emotional of an issue to get our newly elected commission to vote on the issue based on the facts. The three "no" votes ignored the proven safest (and also cheapest) alternative recommended by the city's excellent engineering staff, a nationally prominent engineering firm, and one of the leading experts on modern roundabouts in the United States and the world.

It isn't going to affect my daily life at all, unless by chance I should happen to be involved in one of the serious crashes that will inevitably and eventually occur at the signalized intersection. However, as an "old" traffic and transportation engineer, educator, researcher, and long-time highway safety advocate, the misinformation I see and hear about modern roundabouts does bother me. Even recently, according to quotes in the April 4 Manhattan Mercury, at least one newly elected commissioner was continuing the misinformation within hours of being elected.

As a university professor, I believe I have an obligation to search for and disseminate truth and new knowledge based on research, reliable data and facts or evidence from recognized technical publications. That's what we educators and researchers do. That is what a major university is about. Thus, I am writing this as one more attempt to educate. After 43 years of higway engineering education and experience and four recent research projects funded by state and national organizations to study the operational characteristics of modern roundabouts, I believe that I have some credentials in this area.

It does sometimes amaze me that if you take an average group of people, hardly anyone would ever consider practicing medicine or law or performing surgery without the expertise from education and training. Yet, almost everyone with a driver's license believes he or she has the expertise to practice traffic engineering. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but opinions shouldn't be stated as fact without substantiation.

Although I didn't agree with his "no" vote on the modern roundabout, I respect Commisioner Roger Reitz's honesty when he basically conceded that the modern roundabout may be safer or the best alternative, but felt he was listening to the majority of the people. I think that is yet to be proven, and perhaps a referendum would be in order. But at least he does not issue false and misleading statements, hearsay, etc., about modern roundabouts. I challenge our new leaders to do the same and educate themselves before issuing statements that have no basis in fact or cannot be supported by any creditable evidence.

I have no problem with anyone disliking a modern roundabout for any reason - because they don't like anything round, because they remind them of spinach or any other irrelevant reason. But please don't be against them because of misinformation or unsupported claims presented as facts. Some of the most recent examples:

  • Saying that a modern rounabout is not safer than traffic signals or stop signs is contrary to every scientific study that has been done in the last 10 years in the United States and throughout the world. The fact is they do reduce serious crashes 50 to 90 percent compared to traffic signals. To even suggest that a roundabout would be no safer than the current stop signs at North Manhattan and Kimball avenues is totally false.
  • Also, not even the severest knowledgeable critic of modern roundabouts would claim they have a problem handling right turns. Right turns are of the least concern to a traffic engineer at an intersection, including a modern roundabout. Left turns are the real headache for traffic engineers and the cause of many crashes and congestion at intersections with traffic signals. In fact, one of the biggest advantages of a modern roundabout is that it handles left turns more safely and with less delay than any other type of traffic control. This fact has been proven by several studies.
  • Finally, I wish the "myth" that a modern roundabout needs to be big or has to take up acres of right-of-way would just go away. It is just not true. One basic problem with those bigh old rotaries or traffic circles (Note: Anything bult in the U.S. before 1991 or worldwide before 1985 probably fits in this category and is not a modern roundabout) is that they were too big. They allowed high-speed entry and weaving, sometimes even parking, and generally forced vehicles in the circle to stop. Many or most were (still are in Washington, D.C. and other cities) prone to congestion, confusion and serious crashes.

In terms of safety and efficiency of operation, the modern roudabout has little or no resemblance to these dangerous, confusing relics of the past - nor to the small traffic circles near Aggieville and on Fairview that are primarily for speed control, like speed bumps. But critics keep bringing up erroneous comparisons and inferences, over and over and over.

So, my parting thought to our city leaders, new and old commissioners, and others to whom it may apply - if you don't like modern roundabouts because they remind you of spinach or any other irrelevant reason, say so.

But don't present misinformation as facts and don't distort the facts. That only distorts your credibility.

(Dr. Russell is a professor of Civil Engineering at KSU and Director, Center for Transportation Research and Training)

Source: The Manhattan Mercury (04/04/2001)

After finding out that she had lost her re-election bid, Mayor Karen McCulloh Tuesday asked that the issue of the Kimball and N. Manhattan roundabout be placed on the next agenda. Her action amounted to a challenge to the new commission to fulfill what McCulloh viewed as campaign promises to cut spending.

"Given the statements that were made during the election I don’t think they should have any problems at all with this." she said. "They all ran on cutting taxes, and this [the roundabout] is a good way to do it ... and still make people safer."

It seemed virtually certain that McCulloh’s request would not result in a re-vote on the issue. Commissioners recently voted 3-2 against placing a roundabout at the intersection of Kimball and N. Manhattan avenues - despite estimates that doing so would have saved the city $430,000 - and both of the newly elected commissioners Tuesday said there was no point in revisiting the decision. Two of the three holdover commissioners - Roger Reitz and Ed Klimek - voted with the majority in opposition to the Kimball roundabout earlier this year.

"I don’t understand why she would do it," said Mark Taussig, who led the city field Tuesday. "I think the decision has been made and that we’re not going to go through that again." Brad Everett, who ran a close second to Taussig, characterized McCulloh’s request as "unfortunate," adding, "We need to direct ourselves to things we have before us and not behind us."

McCulloh knew why she did it, citing the difference in cost between the roundabout and the traffic light that is to be installed. "I wanted to give [the new commission] the opportunity their very first night in office to cut taxes," she said. "Right from the word go [they can] set a tone of frugality and efficiency."

City manager Ron Fehr said no determination has been made whether to honor McCulloh’s request; essentially, he said, that will be up to the new commission. Bruce Snead, who joined McCulloh in voting for the roundabout, succeeds to the mayor’s chair on April 17, at the same time Taussig and Everett are seated.

"I will seek guidance from the new commission," Fehr said. "I don’t know if the new commission will want to reconsider that or not."

Fehr also noted that he was a bit surprised by McCulloh’s request.

"Commissioners usually talk to me before they do something like that," he said.

Taussig and Everett have both indicated they favored the installation of a traffic signal. Taussig said the city "can possibly cut some of the costs out of the traffic signal option" to create the savings McCulloh envisions.

A planner at Kansas State University, Taussig characterized the Kimball-North Manhattan site as "not a good location for a roundabout...not large enough."

He cited problems with left hand turns and the inability of the roundabout to make right hand turns any safer.

"We wouldn’t have improved the intersection," he said. "It would have been just as dangerous as it is now."

He also had questions about costs associated with the project, such as that for grading the road down, the presence of two left turn lanes, widening the road and the placement of a retaining wall.

"Those are things that are nice, but that might not be essential," he said.


I read the letter you (Dr. Eugene Russell) sent and it seems like there is a lot of confusion between roundabouts and large traffic circles like those built years ago in some of our US cities and elsewhere in the world. The best way to explain the difference is that modern roundabouts are relatively small, slow, and the safest form of traffic control in the world, whereas the old, large traffic circles are large, fast and dangerous. Although I explain the matter in detail, some people cannot or do not want to grasp the fact that there is a world of difference between these two types of intersection traffic control. Also, very small traffic circles (sometimes called “mini-roundabouts”) installed on residential streets for speed control (traffic calming) serve a different purpose.

The huge speed differential between the old traffic circles and modern, well-designed roundabouts is one of the hardest issues to get people to understand. Most people have grown up with a high familiarity with high-speed vehicle travel. So when they are asked to understand low-speed travel, they just cannot envisage traveling at 15 to 20 mph. They cannot comprehend the huge amount of additional time they have in which to make a driving decision, or to avoid a crash at 15 mph compared to the same circumstance at 40 to 50 mph. A related issue is the difficulty that some people have in understanding that modern roundabouts are low-speed devices, usually 20 mph or less, whereas the old, large traffic circles operate at 30 to 50 mph. Related to the speed issue is an issue that we don’t expect non-engineers to understand, although many do when it is clearly explained to them. That is by slowing vehicles to around 20 to 25 mph we reduce the gaps between cars and so increase the density of flow. That is, at around 20 to 25 mph we maximize the capacity of a road. As speed goes up, the headway (distance) between vehicles goes up faster than the speed, thereby reducing the density of flow and hence the road capacity. On the other hand, some very ordinary non-professionals quickly learn that at roundabouts there is no traffic signal lost time (red and yellow time), that is wasted and hence translates into lost capacity at traffic signals. At a roundabout, vehicles can safely enter all legs simultaneously, thereby maximizing the capacity of a roundabout controlled intersection.

By the way, no one has been able to prove that any other form of traffic control can come close to modern roundabouts for providing the lowest crash rate with the lowest, (almost zero) injury rate at the few crashes that do occur. Even the Federal Highway Administration report on crash rates at roundabouts show them to be the safest form of traffic control in the world. Unfamiliarity of other people with roundabouts is one of those perpetual issues raised by opponents to roundabouts. In the US that concept has no basis. No matter where roundabouts have been built in this country, e.g. in tourist areas, next to schools, in elderly citizen areas, they do not fail. Of the several hundred roundabouts that have now been built in the US, only a couple of very badly designed roundabouts that did not reduce vehicle speeds have been removed. In Vermont, we have had a roundabout 300 feet from an elementary school on a state highway with 13,000 vehicles and about 560 elementary school children per day passing through the roundabout for 4.25 years and no one has been involved in an crash. It is a fascinating concept that elementary school children in Vermont can cope with a roundabout without any training but university students in Kansas cannot. It makes one wonder which is more correct: the quality of students that attend your university is less than elementary children in Vermont, or university students cannot cope with roundabouts. At the Davis Campus of the University of California, there are eight roundabouts on Campus with more on the way. One of these roundabouts caters to 1100 bicyclists in a 10 minute peak period with hundreds of pedestrians and some vehicles. Within Davis there are other roundabouts. So I wonder why university students in Davis can take to roundabouts and other students can’t. There are roundabouts in other University cities like Gainesville, Miami, etc. I think the statements I have read may be underestimating the intellectual quality of your students. Although there is no fanfare, roundabouts are being installed in 30 states from Florida to Hawaii, from Vermont to California and by 18 Departments of Transportation. So maybe you are a little slow in adopting roundabouts in your area, but other people are not so slow. The City of Honolulu is designing and installing the first of more than 20 roundabouts in their city. The information that we are getting from France is that they are replacing traffic signals with roundabouts at about 1,000 sites per year. France has gone from no roundabouts in 1984 to more than 20,000 in 1998. That is the most rapid increase in roundabouts of any country in the world. It also has to be kept in mind that France replaced many old traffic circles and has many old traffic circles that have yet to be replaced. So without knowing specific site information, I cannot provide direct comments, but what I have seen of the modern roundabouts that are being built in France, they are almost the same as the American built roundabouts.

As far as game days go, the University of Kansas in Lawrence is building a roundabout as a means of reducing congestion on game days. In their case, if need be, one police officer can easily control the roundabout and give almost uninterrupted flow out of the university. So it seems they do not harbor the fears that your administrators do.

Source: "Letters to the Editor" - The Manhattan Mercury (03/11/2001)

It amazes me that people who complain about speeders on our streets and the "fools" who inevitably kill people at signalized intersections (and it happens) reject the one, proven solution that slows traffic flow through intersections, results in less traffic delay than a signal, greatly improves safety and practically eliminates the risk of fatal crashes - the modern roundabout.

It also amazes me that we have city commissioners and community leaders who seemingly put personal bias and politics ahead of the safety of the Manhattan motoring public. But it is even beyond amazement when two city commissioners, although conceding that the rundabout would offer greater safety at a half million dollars less cost, claimed to be voting "no" because of the vast opposition. For "proof" they cited 40 negtive contacts. Considering that the population of Manhattan is roughly 50,000, 40 represents .0008 percent of the population.

Maybe the sensible, safety minded people don't speak out enough. Maybe they will speak out with their vote in the next city election and vote for candidates who are more safety minded and cost conscious. A half-million dollars here and a half million dollars there can add up to some real money - and increased taxes. Three cheers for Karen McCulloh and Bruce Snead.

Source: "Letters to the Editor" - The Manhattan Mercury (03/11/2001)

To the Editor:

Can you handle one more letter about roundabouts?

I use Kimball Avenue to get to work, and I am not looking forward to traffic lights at Manhattan and Kimball avenues. The area is large enough that a roundabout would be much safer.

I grew up with them in Germany and they worked well in areas large enough to offer a free flow of traffic.

The roundabout at Moro and Eighth streets is not large enough and should be removed. I have also noticed that drivers try to turn from North Eighth onto Moro eastbound without going around the circle. My son lives on Moro, and several times I have had to stop and let drivers turn onto Moro to avoid an accident.

How about some charts showing how to use roundabouts?

Source: "Letters to the Editor" - The Manhattan Mercury (03/11/2001)

To the Editor,

Manhattan citizens who spent Tuesday evening, Feb. 6, either in attendance at the City Commision meeting or who watched the proceedings saw an interesting event. There were several players in the event.

Five city commissioners were on the center stage. There also were several consultants and the city engineer in charge of the developed plans for the intersection of Kimball and North Manhattan avenues. Several citizens, including a civil engineer who had studied the plan carefully, strongly favored the roundabout solution rather than the stop light alternative were there.

The other citizens' remarks indicated that they had made up their minds early on, that they "didn't like the idea" of a roundabout. This decision in all cases seems to have been reached long before the facts that bear on the case had been well publicized. None of those favoring the higher costing stoplights seemed to represent anyone who is a current or recent local taxpayer. It seems that none of those favoring the stop light choice had evidence that they are safer. None presented proof that the stop light system moves traffic more smoothly. None stressed that the stop light system costs well over $400,000 more to install and is more expensive on an annual basis to operate.

A logical conclusion seems to be that if one puts hevy weight on fiction, the stop lights bear consideration. If one bases a decision on clear facts, as developed by Gene Russell, a civil engineer on the faculty in the College of Engineering at KSU, the clear choice is a roundabout.

It is often observed that a vocal opposition, though a relatively small part of the citizenry, sounds almost like a majority. Those in favor of a proposal seem to assume that the elected official will know what decision represents the public interest and will vote accordingly. In this instance, this does not appear to be so.

In one way or another, three commissioners who voted in favor of the stop light solution seemed uncomfortable with their position. One said so in so many words and one admitted that the vote was because he'd counted the phone calls. One said in effect: "Spinach is supposedly a healthful food, but lots of people don't like spincah. I don't favor spinach today, even though I expect to in a few years."

No commissioner voting against the roundabout denied that it's safer, that it moves traffic (even on football game days) more smoothly, or that it is significantly less expensive.

One characteristic of good leadership is that it recognizes the fact that a mistake was made, moves quickly to correct the mistake, and thus cuts the losses. Since in this case it appears evident that the vote that Tuesday evening was not in the public interest, it seems the commission should quickly recognize that in electing them, the public expects them to determine what is in the public interest and vote accordingly. Surely it's not too late at this point to reconsider this matter.

Those signing this letter are all current or recent Manhattan taxpayers and do not want to see nearly half a million dollars extra invested in an inferior product.

Editor's note: Eighty people, including 34 who are residents of Meadowlark Hills, signed this letter.

Source: The Manhattan Mercury (03/10/2001)

Citing the public's wants - not needs - as their reason for doing so, three members of the Manhattan City Commission voted against putting a modern roundabout at the intersection of Kimball and N. Manhattan avenues Tuesday night.

"The trouble is that my constituents don't like it," said commissioner Roger Reitz. "Got a lot [of input] on this one and by a lot, I mean people are against it."

The vote, which was 3-2, saw commissioners Reitz, Carol Peak and Ed Klimek band together against Mayor Karen McCulloh and commissioner Bruce Snead, who said residents would get used to a roundabout.

"It seems like we need to buck a little bit of public opinion," McCulloh said.

Instead, the traffic signal option, which will cost $430,000 more than the roundabout, will be used.

Klimek compared the roundabout to spinach.

As he held a can of the vegetable in his hand, he described its good attributes.

"It's full of vitamin A. There's no cholesterol, no fat, [and it's] low in calories," he said. "When I was growing up, people always told me to eat lots of spinach. But how many of us do? We don't like the spinach. We haven't accepted it."

He said while he thinks roundabouts are a good thing, Manhattan is not ready for them.

"Engineering tells me it's good ... but the people are telling me they won't open the can," he said.

McCulloh said now is the time to do what is in the public's interest - before somebody else gets killed at that intersection.

"Sometimes you have to be bold," she said, "[and] it's my duty to make sure everybody is safe. You can't kill people in roundabouts."

McCulloh was also unconvinced that a traffic light will prevent collisions.

"[Careless drivers] are going to go 50 miles per hour through that red light and they are going to kill somebody," she said.

Research provided by HWS consultants estimated that the installation of a roundabout would have reduced the number of accidents by 83 percent, while a light will only reduce them by 58 percent.

Between 1997 and 1999, there were 24 accidents at the intersection of Kimball and N. Manhattan, one of which involved a fatality. Ten involved personal injuries, seven included property damage and six involved rear-end collisions.

Consultant Michael Wallwork said roundbaouts have a lot going for them, including the fact that they are safer.

"Your choice is between a safe intersection and a dangerous intersection," Wallwork said. "In Manhattan since 1995, you've had four people killed at signalized intersections."

The problem with signals is that people are more likely to speed up and run red lights, increasing both the likelihood and severity of accidents.

Snead said he supported roundabouts because they made drivers slow down and pay attention when they were using them.

"Doing nothing is not a responsible option given the history of this intersection," Snead said. "[The roundabout] requires us to take care and pay attention when we drive. I see that as a good thing."

Wallwork told commissioners to take public input with a grain of salt.

"A lot of the time this is not a technical discussion," he said. "[People] don't care about the crash rates ... they just don't want the change."

Commissioner Peak attributed some of the opposition to a fear of change and said she personally likes roundabouts. But she said she couldn't ignore the overwhelming opposition she was hearing from her constituents.

"People really feel like they need to be heard," she said. "This would affect their daily lives."

"We can't control people's behaviour to that extent. They need to take control of their own lives."

Reitz had similar sentiments. "I can't educate my constituency any more at this point," he asid. "People need to believe that they're going to be safe."

Intersection modifications with the light are estimated to cost $1.9 million.

Three of the five commissioners are up for re-election in April, including McCulloh, Peak and Reitz. They said their Tuesday night decision was not related to the election.

"It's an election year," Peak said. "There are people who are going to vote for me because of this decision and there are people who are going to vote against me. This doesn't affect my decision."

The commission also:

Heard public comments from Southside residents who are concerned with what they call the excessive construction of "super-duplexes" in their neighborhoods.

Approved an ordinance issuing up to $40 million in industral revenue bonds for the Mercy Health Center of Manhattan, Inc.

Approved contracts and bids in the amount of $425,688 for 14 vehicles and one street sweeper.

Approved an ordinance to install yield signs on the Musil Drive approaches to the intersection of Musil and Overlook drives.

Approved an ordinance to install stop signs at N. 9th street and Humboldt.

Approved an ordinance to modify the parking in the 300 block of Colorado Street. This ordinance would allow some 24-hour parking.

Approved an ordinance allowing parking in the 900 block of Poyntz Avenue on Sundays until 3 pm.

Source: The Manhattan Mercury (03/10/2001)


Jerry Petty, Director of Public Works, provided an update on the project to the Commission and introduced Mike Gorman, HWS Consulting Group; Jack Messer, HWS Consulting Group; and Michael Wallwork, Alternate Street Design.

Mike Gorman, HWS Consulting Group, provided background information of the project and discussed its recommendation.

Jack Messer, HWS Consulting Group, presented the findings, concerns raised by the public, and addressed those concerns. Mr. Messer also showed a video presenting the advantages of a roundabout. He then answered questions from the Commission.

Michael Wallwork, Alternate Street Design, summarized major points about roundabouts.

At 8.50 p.m., the Commission took a short break.

Jack Messer, HWS Consulting Group; Michael Wallwork, Alternate Street Design; and Jerry Petty, Director of Public Works, answered questions from the Commission.

Bob Smith, Spokesman, Meadowlark Hills Retirement, spoke in favor of constructing a modern roundabout at the intersection of Manhattan Avenue and Kimball Avenue.

Bill Muir, Kansas State University, Administration; Travis Lenkner, Student Senate Chair; and Jake Worcester, Kansas State University Student Body President, spoke against the construction of a modern roundabout at this intersection.

Art Burgess, 3225 Gary Avenue, offered a third alternative for the Commission to consider.

Thomas Kons, 2834 Oregon Lane, spoke against the construction of the modern roundabout at this intersection.

After discussion, Commissioner Snead moved to accept the recommendation of HWS Consulting Group, Inc. and the Kansas Department of Transportation, direct City Administration to take the steps necessary to construct a modern roundabout at the intersection of Kimball Avenue and North Manhattan Avenue, and approve resoltion No. 020601-A authorizing the issuance of temporary notes to finance the engineering services for the project. Mayor McCulloy seconded the motion.

Bill Frost, City Attorney, answered a question from the Commission.

On a roll call vote, motion failed 2-3 with commissionres Klimek, Peak, and Reitz voting against.

Commissioner Klimek moved to direct City Administration to take the steps necessary to construct a signalized intersection at Kimball Avenue and North Manhattan Avenue, and approve Resolution No. 020601-A authorizing the issuance of temporary notes to finance the engineering services for the project. Commissioner Reitz seconded the motion. On a roll call vote, motion carried 3-2 with Mayor McCulloh and Commissioner Snead voting against.

Manhattan Mercury
PO Box 787
Manhattan, KS 66505-0787

Re: Letter to the Editor for publication

Dear Editor:

First, I wish to compliment Wilson Thomas for an excellent letter, correctly setting forth the main facts regarding roundabouts (The Manhattan Mercury, January 28, page C8). After reading so much misinformation relating to roundabouts in Mercury arcticles and letters, it is refreshing, indeed, to see factual statements.

I have no personal interest in the North Manhattan-Kimball intersection. I hardly ever use it. I write this as a citizen, but as one who has studied and taught traffic and transportation engineering and highway safety for over 40 years, and, over the past three years has directed 5 research studies on modern roundabouts funded by Kansas DOT (KDOT), Mack Blackwell National Trasportation Center (MBTC), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). I believe I can intelligently separate facts from "fiction" and some of the just plain nonsense that has been printed in The Mercury.

The transportation engineering group at KSU has conducted, or is in the process of conduction, research on 9 roundabouts in Kansas (Hutchinson, Newton (2), Topeka (2), Olathe (2), Lawrence and Manhattan). We are also conducting research studies on roundabouts in the states of Maryland, Washington and Nevada. In addition, we have personally observed and videotaped traffic flows at more than 20 other modern roundabouts throughout the USA.

Our studies, and studies throughout the world, conclude that the modern roundabout is the safest and most cost-effective intesection control available. A well-designed, modern roundabout is safer, cheaper and moves traffic with less delay than any other form of traffic control.

In regard to safety, significant reductions in all crashes, and large reduction in injury and fatal crashes have been documented. This fact has been verified worldwide and in the USA by several recent studies of intesection safety. In a recent Federal Highway Administration publication (Roundabouts: An Information Guide, USDOT/ FHWA Publication No. FHWA-RD-00-067, Washington, DCC., June, 2000), it is reported that: "experience in the United States shows a reduction in crashes after building a roundabout of about 37 percent for all crashes and 51 percent for injury crashes." If only small to moderate single lane roundabouts are considered, the reductions are 51 percent for all crashes and 73 percent for injury crashes. Mean reduction in crashes after convertion to a modern roundabout from other traffic control devices have been similar in several other countries: Australia 41-61% for all crashes and 45-87% for injury crashes; France 57-78% for injury crashes; Germany 36% all crashes: Netherlands 47% all crashes; United Kingdom 25-39% injury crashes (p. 112, Exhibit 5-9). Probably the most comprehensive US study recently completed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did an in-depth study of 24 intersections which were converted from stop control and signal to a modern roundabout during the past decade. The 24 were a mix of urban, suburban and rural crashes and about a 90% reduction for fatal and incapacitating injury crashes (Crash Reduction Following Installation of Roundabouts in the United States, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, VA, March, 2000).

Traffic signals do not prevent all crashes, as some people seem to believe. They do not prevent all serious crashes. Red light running is one of the top highway safety problems in the USA today. People do run red lights and sometimes kill people. According to US Department of Transportaion statistics, drivers who run red lights are involved in 89,000 crashes a year, inflicting more than 80,000 injuries and nearly 1,000 deaths. ("Research & Technology Transporter," US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-RD-00-016, Washingotn, DC, August 2000). Rear-end crashes tend to increase when a traffic signal is installed. Also, a traffic signal does not do much to slow people down--one of the main safety features of a modern roundabout.

In regard to efficiency, it is easy to prove, both theoretically and by field studies, that there is significantly less overall delay and vehicle backup at a modern roundabout than at a four-way stop control or at a traffic signal. In regard to backing up traffic, including football game traffic, I hope the Grand Mere roundabout has put that myth to rest. At least I hope people are not disappointed that they couldn't "amuse themselves" watching traffic back up to Junction City--one prediction printed in The Mercury. The fact is that there was little or none at the roundabout--but there were near half-mile backups at the intersection of Anderson and Scenic Drive, as well as the usual congestion at other signalized intersections handling game day traffic.

In regard to heavy vehicles (large trucks, "18-wheelers", RV's, etc.), they also have no trouble negotiating a well-designed, modern roundabout, even small, single-lane roundabouts. Large trucks and RV's go through the Grand Mere roundabout very nicely. Of course they can't go through at 40 to 50 mph and generally go over the truck apron (raised pavement area outside the central island). That is what the truck apron is there for, and the reason it is called a truck apron.

At the proposed North Manhattan-Kimball roundabout it is unlikely the truck apron will be used much because of the relatively wide lanes. If there is any potential problem with this double lane roundabout (as designed), it is that vehicles, including trucks, will be able to go through it too easily and too fast. Modern roundabouts don't have to be big to be efficient. They don't need to take up several acres. That is another bit of misinformation or confusion with the big, old roundabouts built in Washington, D.C., Paris and other major cities years ago. These big, old roundabouts (or large traffic circles) have all sorts of operational problems and some have high crash rates. The main problem is that they are generally too big, with wide lanes to accommodate long, weaving sections, that allow high speeds. From a size and operational standpoint, these big, old roundabotus have little or nothing in common with a typical, modern roundabout, although critics keep trying to relate them. Bigger is not better. Anyone interested in the history and evolution of design and operational principles leading to the present day modern roundabout should read "The Design of Roundabouts: State of the Art Review" (Mike Brown, Transport Research Laboratory, Department of Transport, London: HMSO, 1995).

In regard to horse trailer, we have a video clip of a truck hauling a large horse trailer doing a u-turn at 15 to 20 mph around the Candlewood-Gary roundabout. Try that at a signalized intersection sometime.

Finally, I do have a personal interest in property taxes. I am greatly concerned over recent increases. It seems to me that it behooves our leaders to select cost effective solutions to city problems. Mr. Thomas got that right too.

My hope is that the city commission will make a decision based on the facts and not on who hollers the loudest or the biases of any individual person or persons. In general, I have always felt that the City of Manhattan has an excellent professional staff in Public Works and Engineering. Their recommendations should be given heavy weight.
(Dr. Russell is a professor of Civil Engineering at KSU and Director, Center for Transportation Research and Training)

Source: "Letters to the Editor" - The Manhattan Mercury (01/28/2001)

To the Editor,

Since 1967, I have lived near the intersection of Kimball and North Manhattan avenues. I am writing in regard to the traffic problem at that intersection.

As a local citizen, I am interested in decisions that move traffic smoothly, safely and at the least cost.

Local discussion centers on traffic lights or a roundabout to correct the serious problems at this intersection.

How do these two proposals compare?

1. Safety: The roundabouts have proven in use to be much the safest choice. This is the case both in Manhattan and elsewhere.

2. Cost: Esimated project costs indicate that an adequate roundabout would cost about 75 percent what traffic lights would cost in installation. Power costs for operating lights add to the dollar disadvantage of using lights.

3. Moving traffic smoothly: Traffic moves smoothly through roundabouts. They serve as self-enforcing speed control. The people who currently drive 45 mph (or more) through this area evidently want to continue doing this, but it simply must not continue.

The question of whether or not trucks or fire department equipment can move safely through such a system is answered in practice by the fact that the Kimball-Grand Mere facility works fine.

Because of curves, short sight distance, hills and heavy traffic, Kimball Avenue is inherently dangerous. In recent years, two longtime friends of mine have been killed on or near Kimabll Avenue (one at the intersection under discussion, the other just south of the Kimball - Anderson Avenue intersection on Scenic Drive).

In summary, the roundabout system ranks above traffic lights by a significant margin on all three points - safety, economy, and moving traffic smoothly. I urge the public to think through the choices available as to which system will be in the public interest.

I urge the Manhattan City Commission to weigh the facts carefully and to decide based on facts.

Source: The Manhattan Mercury (01/10/2001)

A consulting firm presented city commissioners with three options Tuesday night for the intersection of Kimball and N. Manhattan avenues, the least expensive being a roundabout.

HWS Consulting presented the options, which the city sought as a means of preventing accidents and improving traffic flow at the intersection.

Mayor Karen McCulloh told an audience which essentially packed the Commission chamber that she doesn’t yet have a sense of where the commission is headed on this project.

"We have a lot of facts to think over," McCulloh said. "The jury’s still out on this one."

But she said for her there is one important factor.




The intersection is T-shaped and regulated only by a stop sign at N. Manhattan Avenue entering onto Kimball, which runs east and west. There are also yield signs in the right-hand merge lanes that lead the traffic turning east onto Kimball Avenue and south onto Manhattan Avenue.

The first option presented was one at which traffic-controlled signals would be used to mediate traffic flow. According to HWS representative Randall Kaster, the cost would be roughly $1.9 million. In addition, the number of accidents could be reduced by 58 percent.



Between 1997 and 1999, there were a total of 24 accidents at that intersection, one of which was fatal and 10 of which involved personal injuries. Of the remaining 13, seven were personal damage accidents and six were rear-end collisions.

The second option, a large roundabout, would provide two lanes encircling the concrete center. The roundabout would be 180 feet across with the two lanes spanning roughly 35 feet across, allowing room for trucks and emergency vehicles to pass through. This roundabout would also have a truck apron, similar to the one at the intersection of Kimball Avenue and Grand Mere Parkway.

The estimated cost for the roundabout is $1.48 million, with an accident-reduction of 83 percent.

"You cannot have any right-turn accidents in the roundabout," said Jack Messer, a local representative of HWS.

But roundabout nay-sayers were present too, making their objections heard. Many were not convinced that a large truck-type vehicle would be able to safely negotiate the roundabout. Others were concerned that people would not know how two drive through a two-laned roundabout, especially considering Manhattan’s high transient population.

"We can’t stop people from driving illegally," Messer said.

The third option, which the presenter himself, Brian Erickson, said is the least probable, was a grade separation. In this alternative, N. Manhattan Avenue would be raised about 22 feet over Kimball. This option would require not only a lot of fill, but additional ramp construction and a traffic light. The cost is estimated at $4.64 million.

A public workshop about the intersection will be at 5 p.m. Jan. 23 in the City Commission Room, City Hall, 1101 Poyntz Ave. The commission is expected to make a decision at its Feb. 6 meeting.

You can reach Kathryn Combs by phone at 776-1616, or by e-mail at