Northwest NEWS

June 11, 2001



Businesses respond to proposed roundabout

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   Business owners at the Hollywood intersection are raising concerns about the roundabout design the city has proposed as an alternative to the conventional signalized intersection currently in use.
   The design of a circle road with an island in the middle is relatively new to the United States, but has been in successful operation in Europe for many years.
   Looking at the success rate of roundabouts in Europe, and the few in the United States, the city of Woodinville is considering the roundabout design to alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection of SR 202 and 148th.
   During peak hours, the wait at the intersection can be as long as five minutes. Without improvements, the city predicts the wait at the intersection will be as long as eight to 10 minutes in ten years.
   Christine Carlson, owner of Christine's Landscape Creations on 148th, wonders how her trucks and trailers will get in and out of her business when a roundabout is in operation. Without a traffic light to slow the speed of traffic, she's concerned if she'll be able to pull out of her property into the flowing traffic speed.
   "We're all going to be very concerned in how we're going to get in and out of our property," she said. "I'm frustrated because I'm not knowing enough [if the City] is proceeding in the proper direction. What's going to happen if we're going to want to turn left or right?"
   Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe who owns the Hollywood Schoolhouse is in agreement with Carlson.
   "Everyone has an image that a roundabout would be a beautiful design in the tourist district on that corner." But how would a roundabout impact the businesses around it? she asked. "We depend on the light to give us a break so we can exit our driveways. This wouldn't occur on a roundabout."
   She said that people leaving her property and driving on to 148th would have no option but to turn right. If they wanted to turn left, a roundabout would force them to drive back to Woodinville and then turn around.
   "It would be a definite problem for us as far as entry and exit to our business." She cited a roundabout in Clearwater, Florida, which is having immense problems. "They put it in a tourist area and many tourists were confused," she said. "And of course the [other] concern is the taking of our property."
   Senator McAuliffe favors a signalized intersection with a center lane.
   Kim Novak, spokesperson for Tully's Coffee at the Hollywood intersection said that Tully's needed more information to make an evaluation on the proposed roundabout. However, their major concern is customers have easy access in and out. "We want to make it easy for our customers to get their cup of coffee on their way to work and on their way home."
   James Simkins, General Manager of Willows Lodge on SR 202, said as he sees the concern the question is how will drivers adapt to a roundabout?
   "My assessment is, I've seen these traffic circles all over the world and they work very well."
   Simkins has managed hotels in five countries and four continents. "You'll find that the design they're looking at, traffic will be going steady and slowly. You'll get natural gaps."
   He said that Santa Barbara, Calif., solved their traffic congestion problem with a roundabout. "And it has worked exceptionally well," he said.
   Still, Christine Carlson and Senator McAuliffe question if the roundabout design is functional. Neither believes that drivers will follow a posted 25 mph speed limit. Said McAuliffe, "I happened to ride with a lady from England on the way to the airport in Washington, D.C.
   She said, "No one travels 25 mph at roundabouts in England.'"
   Carlson said that people are currently driving past her business faster than the posted speed limit. The traffic light at the intersection allows for breaks so that she can pull out of her driveway into traffic. But with a roundabout replacing the traffic signal, Carlson is scared of ingress and egress. "I hope the City Council is taking a look at these factors," she added.
   Jack Gundersen of Jack's Used Equipment on 148th said he recently took his concerns about the roundabout to a City Council meeting. He feels the Council didn't hear a word he said.
   "Here's the problem with City Hall," he said. "They actually have their mind made up before you even get there." Gundersen has lived in Woodinville since 1948 and isn't in favor of a roundabout at all. "The way everything is now is absolutely fine."
   Traffic, he said, moves very well at the intersection and if there is a wait, it's two to three minutes at the most. "A few minutes wait, so what!" He doesn't believe the prediction that traffic waits at the Hollywood intersection would be as long as eight to 10 minutes in 10 years.
   According to Gundersen, unless the city completes all sections on all roads involved with a roundabout, it won't do any good.
   Of the roundabout design the city has in mind, he said, "You'll make a loop around the roundabout and then you'll deadhead."
   He cited Wilmot Park as an example of a city project that isn't functional. "Wilmot Park has parking space for only 11 cars."
   He said most people have to park in town if they want to go to th park. The traffic problem, he said is in the middle of the city not at his end of town. He added, "Can you imagine the mess when they start construction?"
   Director of Public Works, Mick Monken said that all concerns would be addressed. "We're in the preliminary stage of the process for considering a roundabout," he said. "We're being very proactive in working with the businesses. Hopefully we can alleviate concerns businesses have.
   "We'll be selecting a consultant within the next few weeks, then setting up meetings with the immediate stakeholders."
   Monken pointed out that if improvements weren't made to the Hollywood intersection, traffic congestion would get worse.
   "If we do nothing to improve this intersection, the area will see a continual increase in traffic back up," he said. "Businesses will be blocked off, and soon all the local driveways will end up being right-in and right-out only."
   He said that the conventional signalized intersection could be widened to add more capacity, but during peak hours cars would still line up. Even with these improvements, Monken said, it is anticipated that driveway access to the local businesses would be restricted to right turn movement only and blocked off during peak hours.
   "An advantage of the roundabout is that all local businesses have easy access in and out," Monken said.