Elk River considers building a roundabout on Railroad Drive

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

The first roundabout in Elk River is proposed to be built this summer.

It is being considered for the intersection of Railroad Drive, Third Street and Irving Avenue, near the former public post office building.

The intersection where a roundabout may be built.
The intersection where a roundabout may be built. The old post office is the building in the background.

A “mini roundabout” is being proposed, which is designed to fit into an existing intersection. No land would need to be acquired.

Jason Wedel, an engineer with WSB and Associates, told the City Council on Monday, Jan. 7,  that the intersection is awkward now. The streets are not perpendicular to one another and intersect at angles that cause driver confusion and impaired visibility, according to a WSB and Associates report on proposed city street improvements for 2013.

City Engineer Justin Femrite said he would like to establish a roundabout in Elk River and believes the Railroad Drive-Third Street- Irving Avenue location is worth considering.

“One of the reasons I asked WSB to look at a mini roundabout in this location is to get one implemented here in town so we can get the motoring public used to it because, honestly, a mini roundabout may be our only solution at this time for correcting an intersection like Parrish and Main,” Femrite told the council. He would like to consider one at Parrish and Main in downtown Elk River in the future if the concept is accepted by the motoring public.

A map of the proposed Railroad Drive roundabout.
A map of the proposed Railroad Drive roundabout.

“There’s some education that goes along with putting roundabouts in and changing traffic control measures at intersections,” Femrite explained. “But especially at Parrish and Main, if we would go with something completely foreign right there, I think it would come with a lot of skepticism.”

Meanwhile, Council Member Matt Westgaard wondered if a mini roundabout on Railroad Drive would be able to handle truck traffic.

Femrite said mini roundabouts are designed with a partially raised center median so truck trailers can go over it.

The Railroad Drive mini roundabout is part of a proposed reconstruction project on Railroad Drive between Jackson Avenue and Main Street. The project calls for reconstructing the street and installing concrete curb and gutter and storm sewer improvements. Angled parking would be put in along both sides of Railroad Drive between Jackson Street and Irving Avenue. The current mail drop-off boxes are proposed to be eliminated.

The Railroad Drive project is one of about a dozen in the proposed 2013 Street Improvement Project, estimated at a total cost of $3.7 million.

A public hearing on the entire list of proposed street projects is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4 at Elk River City Hall, 13065 Orono Parkway.

Roundabout facts

•A roundabout is a circular intersection or junction in which traffic is slowed and flows in one direction around a central island to several exits onto the various intersecting roads.

•Widespread use of the modern roundabout began during the 1960s.

•Limited use of roundabouts in the United States began in the 1990s. By 2011 there were about 3,000 U.S. roundabouts.

•Roundabouts are widespread in Europe. For instance, in 2010 France had more than 30,000 roundabouts.

Source: Wikipedia