Neighbors skeptical about new roundabout

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COLUMBIA – More roundabouts will be built in Columbia over the next two years, but some residents near the latest approved location aren’t supportive of the plan.

The City Council approved a roundabout at Forum Boulevard and Green Meadows Road. It joins the intersection at Vandiver Drive and Parker Street to get approved for construction.

Prior to the city council approving the roundabout at Forum and Green Meadows, Country Club Villas resident Tim Vicente presented a petition of 150 neighborhood residents and members of nearby Green Meadows Preschool speaking out against the roundabout option.

Vicente told the city council the location was not fit to handle a large-scale roundabout since neighborhoods occupy three corners of the intersection and the preschool occupies the fourth.

The city’s plan calls for a double-lane roundabout, meaning two lanes would flow into the roundabout from Forum while only one comes from Green Meadows. Vicente showed a picture of the double-lane roundabout at Route WW and Rolling Hills Road, a similar layout to the proposal’s plan.

“If it’s exactly the same size as the one out by Old Hawthorne, then we really have a giant slab of concrete right in the middle of a residential community,” Vicente said. 

Cost can also add up when developing a new intersection. Forum and Green Meadows has a projected cost of $1.1 million to build a roundabout when options of a full or reduced traffic signal would cost $200,000 less. Vandiver and Parker will also cost a projected $900,000. The Capital Improvement Sales Tax approved by voters in 2015 funds these projects.

Mayor Brian Treece was the lone vote against the Forum and Green Meadows project, saying he was concerned about fiscal aspects and the possibility of increased traffic in the neighborhood. All six council members voted in favor of the proposal.

There are currently 38 roundabouts in Columbia. 26 are managed by the city while 10 are managed by MoDOT and two by Boone County. The two new approvals would bring the city’s total up to 40.

Safety is a major component of roundabouts pushed by transportation experts and councils. Richard Stone, Engineering Manager for Public Works, says the roundabout is one of the safest forms of intersection control based on research across the country.

“Given the safety records that roundabouts have, each individual location, we kind of take a look at the specifics of the location to see if they’re a good fit,” Stone said.

A traditional four-way intersection has more than 30 potential conflict points where a vehicle may collide with another. A roundabout has half the conflict points while also bringing a reduction in crash likelihood and injuries. Roundabouts reduce overall collisions by 37 percent, injury collisions by 75 percent and fatality collisions by 90 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

14 collisions occurred at the Forum and Green Meadows intersection between January 2011 and April 2017, according to a council memo. The data is based on filed police reports.

Traffic flow, pedestrian volumes and geometry are also factored into roundabout considerations, Stone said.

The two new roundabout projects have a projected completion date of 2019.