Northwest NEWS

January 21, 2002


Roundabout like the teacup ride at Disneyland

As some Duvall and Carnation residents know, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning on installing a roundabout at the intersection of SR 203 and Northeast 124th Street. This is scheduled for next year. The plans call for it to be constructed as a one-lane roundabout with a second lane to be added later "as traffic volumes warrant."
   I have done my homework on this subject and have gotten some very helpful and generous information on the project from DOT engineers. But after all I have learned, I remain strongly opposed to this idea.
   Roundabouts work in some places, but this isn't one of them. SR 203 is a 55 mph highway traveled by a lot of heavy trucks - trucks with horse trailers, school buses, etc. I'm not convinced a 2-lane roundabout would be safe to navigate side-by-side with a dump truck hauling a trailer.
   Several times now I have been told by supporters of the roundabout that, "they work great in Europe!" Well, they also drive small Mr. Beanmobiles in some of those European roundabout places and most of us don't. This is a semi-rural area; European roundabouts seem to be more prevalent in cities.
   Installing a roundabout will be more expensive than a traffic light. The construction mess will be greater. Do we really need the construction mess after dealing with the 124th Street bridge closure and now the upcoming Woodinville-Duvall Bridge closure? And the growing mess on Novelty Hill Rd. due to development? And flood traffic?
   It is my understanding that this intersection was once the town of Novelty. I believe the white barn next to the llama pasture was built out of wood from the old Novelty church. A roundabout would almost certainly encroach upon that land, so now we're erasing an already nearly invisible history.
   There's a major trail that crosses 124th near that intersection. How good can a large roundabout be for that? And I say large because I've been told cars will be able to travel through it at 45 mph. It needs to be said that allowing major construction (roundabout) at that intersection is environmental hypocrisy.
   Every time 124th floods, we get to sit in unreasonable traffic. This week, after I'd polished my dashboard, carefully picked spilled Cream of Rice granules off the passenger seat and trimmed my bangs while sitting in flood traffic (okay, not really, but you get the point), it hit me: WHY does 124th continue to flood? We're not a primitive society, we have brilliant road engineers who can help us. Why hasn't 124th been raised to escape the floodwaters over its past 100 years of use? Why do we tolerate this?
   And I believe I read in the paper a few years back that it is because someone, somewhere, is worried about renegade pasture salmon. Something to the effect that you can't raise the road or put a culvert underneath it because it might endanger the salmon. Well, how about the human in cardiac arrest who's endangered when the ambulance can't take the most direct route to Overlake? So, it's not okay to alter Northeast 124th Street, but it is okay to tear up one end of it to make a roundabout? Hello, McFly? And don't even tell me the funding's not there. We taxpayers were recently committed to the corporate welfare of paying millions of dollars to enhance Novelty Hill Road.
   Just as King County is doing at the other end of 124th, we just need a traffic light. We could use a couple turn lanes too. It's a more efficient use of land, cheaper. It will probably get done quicker and won't make anyone dizzy or confused.
   It's more respectful to the already traffic-tormented Valley residents and to the land. We tolerate slow dump trucks, flooding, and construction messes to live here - more traffic mess than small-town residents should tolerate. We do it because we love our land and we value our small-town life-style. So please, DOT, do not make that intersection into an urban social experiment. We have faith that you can do much better!
   I know that the state has the scientific data to support their decision, but if we felt like going in circles we could just head for the teacup ride at Disneyland or get involved in the Sound Transit light rail project. Please, spare us the grief and just give us some good old-fashioned all-American RYG on a stick (red, yellow and green).
   The roundabout situation is like a kid wishing for a pet goldfish for Christmas and getting a moray eel instead. Santa's intentions were good, but the kid is bewildered and does not want to bother with the more complex, higher maintenance, unfamiliar and impractical exotic eel. Installing traffic lights and turn lanes before this summer's bridge closure is imperative. Otherwise, Snoqualmie Valley, USA, meet Picadilly Circus. Why, let's just name it "Novelty Circus" for the heck of it.
   Maybe someday we can add some hot dog vendors and statues of Greek gods to it, too. But then the hot dog vendors would be taxed out of business and all move to Idaho, and the statues would be some radical artist's interpretation and wind up looking like metal chairs with pieces of spray-painted PVC pipe sticking out of them. Wait, they actually are!
   Forgive the cynicism, but we small town residents do need to stand up and fight for our life-style before we're all swallowed up into cosmopolitan conformity. I see the roundabout as one step closer to urban life. No thanks.
   (A sincere thanks goes out to the officers who direct traffic during flood closures, they do a great job keeping order in the midst of chaos.)
   Heidi Collins, Duvall