EPHRATA — The Ephrata City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to replace the intersection of state Route 282 and Dodson Road with a roundabout.
“This is an intersection we all use, we’re all a little nervous going through it,” said City Administrator Wes Crago. “The collision history is not good.”
“We want to see this safe,” he added.
David Kieninger, a project engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation, said the proposed roundabout would require leaving the existing asphalt in place and would require very little additional construction — a concrete island in the center and several smaller concrete island to separate lanes of traffic as they enter the proposed roundabout.
Kieninger said the state has been monitoring the number of accidents at the intersection and believes a roundabout will force drivers to slow down on their way into or out of Ephrata.
“We think this will definitely help reduce the number of injury collisions we’re seeing there,” he said.
The state believes a roundabout can be created at the intersection for $120,000 — less than the cost of installing four-way traffic lights. The city will provide $10,000 from the newly created transportation improvement fund, which comes from a two-tenths of a percent sales tax approved by Ephrata voters in 2018.
Grant County has agreed to provide around $18,000, according to Jeff Tincher, director of Public Works for Grant County.
Kieninger believes work could be done in about four or five days, and would likely be scheduled for this coming April or May.
“There really isn’t any earthwork to do, so it should be operational pretty quickly,” he said.
Crago said both DOT and independent studies show roundabouts reduce collisions and come close to eliminating fatal accidents.
“The data says they are dramatically safer, way more efficient, and much cheaper than a light,” he said.
Crago noted that roundabouts are initially unpopular, especially as people learn to navigate them, but eventually they learn the “rules” and the fact that they allow traffic to move more quickly.
However, during the heavily attended meeting, support was vocal and unanimous for the proposal.
“As the owner of 50 percent of the intersection, it’s going to be awesome,” said David Spencer, who, along with his wife Joyce, owns Jolain All Secure Storage and the lots on the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection. “It’s going to slow traffic down tremendously.”
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.