Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
A proposed roundabout at Madison and Waverley Streets is no longer part of the design and reconstruction plan for the intersection.
A public hearing was held at the city council meeting Sept. 21, and residents, the Gardner Edgerton School District and the Johnson County Fire Department voiced their concerns and opposition to the roundabout.
The purpose of the public hearing was to receive comments on the design and reconstruction of the intersection at Waverly Road and W. Madison Street. In December, city staff briefed council regarding the Waverly Road Project, including widening of Waverly to three lanes, open ditch sections, lighting, trail and sidewalk. A round-about was suggested as a viable alternative for the intersection of Waverly and Madison, and that additional investigation would be needed to fully review this alternative.
The presentation was given by Affinis Engineering Group and Tim McEldowney, city engineer.
Affinis Corporation, Gardner’s professional engineering design consultant for the project, investigated and developed the intersection concepts and analyzed levels of service (LOS) for several different scenarios and design alternatives including;
1. Existing Conditions
2. Existing Conditions plus additional traffic projected from the Breckenwood Creek Traffic Impact Study (Even with the added traffic, warrants are still not met)
3. Three-Lane Section for Waverly Road, intersection remains two-way stop controlled
4. Three-Lane Section for Waverly Road, intersection is changed to All-way stop controlled.
5. Roundabout
Steve Shute, mayor, said the consensus from the public was not to have a roundabout.
Throughout the meeting the biggest concern was for the safety of the elementary kids at Madison Elementary school.
Bruce Kracl, USD 231 director of operations, said their concerns for the roundabout were still present with the moving traffic.
“Elementary students are our biggest concern and the emphasis of our concern,” he said. “There are more opportunities for danger crossing two arms of the roundabout.”
Kracl said they have one hired crossing guard at Madison Elementary and when he called the crossing guard company they suggested the school district hire a second.
“35 elementary kids pass through that intersection on average daily,” he said.
Kracl said it is not comparative to the Monticello Elementary school boundary in Shawnee the plan was using as a model.
Al Sanchez, retired police officer who lives across from Madison, said he has watched the traffic almost every day for eight years.
Sanchez said it all has to work with traffic lanes, traffic density, behavior of the driver and being able to see the other driver and pedestrians.
“Drivers have to see eye to eye,” he said. “Pedestrians have to be seen and see. I see lots of confusion.”
Sanchez said the issue was with small children, and he wasn’t sure a roundabout would help traffic management or handle pedestrians and cyclists after school hours.
Sanchez said he thought there was a better use of the city’s funds.
Chris Bateman, resident on Fountain Street, said he has had kids in Gardner schools for the past ten years and has seen kids dart across traffic because they’re running late to school. “They cross the street and not at a crosswalk,” he said.
Bateman said the design proposal of pushing back the crosswalks would make it even harder for a crossing guard. “Crossing guards are usually retired and don’t move as quickly,” he said.
Bateman said he sees what happens at the intersection every day and doesn’t think the roundabout is a great idea.
David Bender, Walter Street resident, said he has a kindergartner at Madison, and even though he trained her on how to walk to school she still didn’t use the crosswalk. “I watched her dart between traffic on Waverly in the rain,” he said. “It was scary.”
Bender said a roundabout is pretty much a yield, but a stop sign or stop signal makes people stop.
“A yield is an unwritten policy to keep on going,” he said. “The 16-17 year old new drivers at the high school won’t stop.”
Bender said he had seen pretty much everything at the intersection including a 65 mph car chase that morning. “Think about the kids more than the traffic,” he said.
Clay Westgate, Evergreen Street resident, said the main function of a roundabout was to improve traffic flow.
“The traffic backs up and drop off and pick up of the kids because Madison is so close to the intersection,” he said. “It’s not going to make a difference because it will still be backed up.”
Westgate said a roundabout with two schools is not going to speed up the drop off and pick up traffic flow.
Dennis Meyers, Johnson County Fire District #1 deputy fire chief, said he was representing the fire district, and they are not in favor of the proposed roundabout.
“If we are coming down Waverly and someone is caught in the triangle, we are caught too,” he said. “We can’t make the turn until we push them through the intersection.”
Meyers said there is no room in a single lane roundabout. “We can make it around the circle,” he said. “But there is nowhere for traffic to go.”
Meyers said they work off minutes and numbers. “Any delay for us isn’t a good thing,” he said. Meyers said the district would prefer at least two lanes to get around people and for people to get around them.
Jessica Westgate, 169th Terrace resident, said she had emailed every council member about her personal research and concerns.
“I felt like a fool,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was a one lane roundabout.” Westgate said drop off and pickup at Madison Elementary School has the highest amount of congestion otherwise there is only one to two cars at a time throughout the intersection during the day.
Westgate said she has seen more wrecks at 167th and Waverley than at Madison. “They take your turn mentality,” she said. “Yeah we have all seen the zipper merge and it don’t work.”
Jaylene Hickley, Waverley Street resident, said she crosses Waverley Street three times a week.
“In the morning hours, not once did cars ever stop for pedestrians,” she said. “Crossing guard yells across lanes of traffic.” Hickley said she couldn’t imagine kids listening and waiting and backed up cars stop waiting for pedestrians.
She said the city should look at a four way stop with a median in the middle because all four sides would have to come to a stop.
Rich Melton, council member, said he could foresee left hand turns as a problem. He suggested no left hand turns be allowed because most of the congestion he sees is from left hand turns.
“We would still have good flow,” he said. Melton said cars going into Madison Elementary School’s parking lot should only be allowed to exit to the right and not left.
Shute asked if cars would then have to go around the whole block.
Tory Roberts, council member, said it seemed confusing and wanted to know if they could just do a four way stop.
The Affinis representative said a four way stop would create worse congestion 20 years from now on Waverley.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said he would like to know the timeline it would take to put a four way stop in place at the intersection.
Melton suggested a roundabout further up closer to the high school looping traffic around the high school.
Mark Baldwin, council member, said he was intrigued by Melton’s idea with two roundabouts.
“Here and now we have a problem,” he said. “More houses are being built to the West, and I struggle with this, but the more I dig into it the more I decided I like the idea.”
Baldwin said no one is going to go flying through a roundabout in a car chase, and he has seen it all as he lives west of the high school entrance and drives through there daily. Baldwin said he would suggest an island refuge only looking left as a safer alternative as being safer for kids. “A roundabout seems to be an advantage,” he said.
Baldwin said he didn’t see any other solutions for this intersection, and his only question was about the cost of a roundabout versus a two way stop sign.
Matt Wolff , Gardner finance director, said a new roundabout in that location would be approximately $800,000.
Michael Kramer, public works director, said the opportunity to improve the intersection is now.
He said he spoke with Langston Hughes Elementary in Lawrence, Kansas who has a similar traffic situation. “They recommended we consider two crossing guards,” he said.
Kramer said he kept hearing that people want a stop sign because it stops vehicles. “That doesn’t stop vehicles,” he said. “You still have free flowing right turn that must yield to pedestrians. Don’t teach the youngsters that vehicles stop.”
Todd Winters, council member, said he wasn’t a fan of roundabouts. “When we have everyone against it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right place for it.”
Shute said he proposed a collaboration for the school district and the city to work together.
“We are tabling the roundabout,” he said. “We will send this back to the engineers and work hand and glove with the school district.”