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Othello to install temporary roundabouts in traffic test

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | July 21, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — The city of Othello will install temporary traffic circles at a number of intersections in residential neighborhoods between Seventh and 14th avenues and between Main and Hemlock streets.

The installation is a pilot project to see if the traffic circles change how people drive in those neighborhoods.

City engineer Shawn O’Brien showed a map of the proposed pilot project to Othello City Council members at the July 12 council meeting, after which members agreed to.

Concrete parking bumpers and reflectors will be installed at five of six intersections on Hemlock, Larch, Spruce, Elm and Oak streets, and two on Ash Street. None are planned for Juniper Street or 10th Avenue.

The goal, O’Brien said, is to determine if the installations slow down traffic on those streets and reduce the number of collisions. That area has an average of 12 to 18 collisions per year, some at intersections, others along the block, he said.

The concrete bumpers, each 4 inches high, will be installed in a diamond pattern with reflectors at each corner.

“This design is about as inexpensive as we could come up with, and it would also be easily removable if we decided we didn’t like the design,” O’Brien said.

The project is still at its early stages, so the design could change.

“We’ll continue to work on this design,” he said.

O’Brien said the goal is to have the bumpers in place by January and leave them in place for a year, to get enough data to determine whether they do what they’re supposed to do.

Mayor Shawn Logan said he supported the concept, but the test area was bigger than he expected.

“I understand we’ve got to have a test area,” Logan said. “To me this is a really big sample size.”

Council member Genna Dorow is part of the council’s water-sewer-street committee, which worked on the proposal before it was submitted to the entire council. She agreed it is a big area, but said it was designed to address an objection that came up during an earlier discussion on a different project on Ash Street, which rebuilds most of the corners along the street between Seventh and 14th avenues, using a design called a bulbout. Part of the rationale for the bulbouts is to slow down traffic.

Council members during that discussion said drivers simply would stop using Ash Street, and start using Oak Street, one block over.

Dorow said that was true, and the water-sewer-street committee members decided to make the pilot project area big enough so drivers can’t just go to the next block.

“This would give us a good case study to see if we could reduce the cut-through traffic (and) reduce speeds,” O’Brien said.

City officials already have painted a test layout at Hemlock Street and Eighth Avenue. Dorow said she drove her car around the test layout and found they were easy to negotiate. But driving through those intersections might become a problem if people parked too close to the corner, she said. The city has ordinances addressing that, she said, and it might be necessary to paint the curbs so people know the proper distance to park from the corner.