By BECKY KISER
No “mini-roundabout” will be installed at the intersection of 27th Street and Canterbury Drive in Hays.
Hays city commissioners considered the idea during their work session Thursday night but, after a presentation by Projects Manager John Braun, followed by considerable discussion, they decided not to move forward with such a project.
The possibility of traffic roundabouts in other areas however, has not been quashed.
“This roundabout idea is not new. We’ve had a lot of talks about roundabouts as a solution to traffic on north Vine Street,” Mayor James Meier reminded fellow commissioners. The idea was suggested to Meier by a member of the public.
City staff investigated the feasibility of converting the existing four-way stop at 27th and Canterbury into a temporary roundabout, following the restriping of Canterbury to three lanes from four lanes later this year. Braun estimated the cost at less than $5,000.
“Nothing would have to be changed with the pavement to make this function,” Braun explained. “The center circle could simply be painted or a temporary mountable island could be constructed or reused rubber mats from speed humps that we have in inventory that were removed from various places around town.”
He estimated it would take about 40 of the rubber segments, which are 2.5 inches high, to make a 40-foot diameter circle and provide an “uncomfortable, but very safe surface to drive over if a large truck did so.”
The east Hays intersection carries periodic heavy traffic, especially when classes let out at Hays High School at 13th and Canterbury and during shift changes at HaysMed in the 2200 block of Canterbury.
“You can get backups quite a distance, especially waiting on left-hand turns,” City Manager Toby Dougherty said.
Meier, a pharmacist at HaysMed, experiences the traffic backups firsthand.
“I do see some problems there, not major, that a roundabout might potentially solve. But more importantly, if we’re really serious about moving forward with roundabouts on Vine, I think this is a way to test if that’s really a good idea,” Meier said. “This could be done really inexpensively before we go and spend $7.6 million on something that may or may not fix our problem.
“I also don’t think we should be deaf to the people who are critical of roundabouts. They may not agree with me, but this really is for those people who oppose roundabouts. This is our opportunity to show it’s either going to solve our traffic problem or not, and we can do it for less than $5,000.”
Traffic accidents are minimal at the intersection, according to Braun.
Although Meier said he wasn’t “sold” on the issue, he’s “not inclined to spend millions of dollars on something we’ve not done before.”
Commissioner Sandy Jacobs is a proponent of roundabouts, saying she thought of the proposal as a “test model and not a permanent solution.”
She is more concerned about Vine Street, specifically at 32nd and 33rd streets. “I think we have a serious problem there that needs to be corrected in some fashion.”
“There are roundabouts all across the country and they’re very successful. It is an educational process,” Jacobs acknowledged. “I think the Hays High students can probably handle a roundabout at 27th and Canterbury.”
“I’m opposed to it,” Vice Mayor Henry Schwaller said. “I think it’s a really bad way to test this because, again, it’s not an intersection that has conflict. If it works, how will we know it’s going to work in another place?”
Schwaller said he is “more optimistic about Vine Street.”
Commissioner Shaun Musil agreed. “I’m absolutely all in on Vine Street. I think it’s a good idea. People who hate roundabouts are going to continue to hate roundabouts whether we put them in or not.”
Some residents also have expressed dislike for three-lane streets.
“I think we’re messing enough already with their heads with the street realignment to three lanes (on Canterbury),” Musil added. “What’s the point?”
“Let’s put extra salt in the wound,” quipped Schwaller.
“I wonder if wouldn’t be a really good solution for an intersection that does back up,” said Commissioner Chris Dinkel. “It’s not necessarily solving a safety issue because there aren’t conflicts or accidents. But when you do have choke point, that’s where roundabouts really help. You’re not having to completely stop traffic. There can be smooth slow movement through the intersection. I think it actually has the opportunity to be pretty beneficial in that spot.”
“If there’s a better solution at another intersection, I’m fine with that,” Meier said, “but I’m not inclined to spend millions of dollars on something we’ve not done before.”
After a short silence, Jacobs spoke up.
“I’m probably inclined to spend millions of dollars at 32nd and Vine, if that’s what it’s going to take,” she said.
“Yeah,” Schwaller quickly agreed. “It’s the most dangerous intersection in town. It was designed incorrectly 45 years ago.”
“I think we have some solutions there,” he continued, “and they’re not really roundabouts. They’re just ‘calming devices.’ They’re not round.”
Commissioners laughed at Schwaller’s description, with Jacobs adding “that’s a good way to put it.”
There was more discussion about the proposed mini-roundabout and what would keep people from just driving over the rubber mats that would be used instead of a more substantial concrete obstruction. Musil thought “it would look cheap.” Meier talked about valuable data that might be derived from how well the roundabout worked for drivers.
Finally, Schwaller suggested “let’s just do the lane conversion on Canterbury. That could some of the problems just by itself.”
“Well, I’m not hearing a consensus to move forward with this proposal,” Meier concluded. “Next item.”