April 8, 2002
Round and round we stop
WSDOT Officials are selling us on the roundabout planned for State Route 203 and Northeast 124th. They allude to studies, statistics and real-life experiences in Europe. But I know from personal experience how miserable these things really are.
Years ago I lived in Europe and saw first-hand the roundabouts in England and France. I spent six months in Paris, site of a roundabout very similar to the one planned. I watched on a daily basis as that roundabout brought work traffic to a congested, snarling halt that took many hours to clear up. I watched cars bump into each other. I watched cars try to get out but go around several times because they could not. I watched cars try to get in, but the circle was full because others couldn't get out. I watched emergency vehicles get stuck for long periods with no other route but this circular, congested nightmare. I watched as buses, trucks and vehicles with trailers took up all the room, blocking cars and stopping the flow completely, as they tried to maneuver through the huge jam.
More recently I found myself on the Plateau facing the new roundabout there. Within an instant of entering it, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid being hit by another car coming in whose driver wrongly thought I was going out. A clear case, the engineers would argue, of a driver who needs education on how to properly use a roundabout.
I remember thinking while in Paris how this was the most insane thing I'd ever seen. What kind of bumbling bureaucracy would inflict such a travesty on its taxpaying citizenry? How glad I was we didn't have this kind of impractical mess in America.
And now, all these years later, just such a bureaucracy plans to thrust the same travesty on us using our own hard-earned tax dollars.
Perhaps another type of education is required. Perhaps our mayors, our representatives and other elected officials need to hear from us, the payers of their salaries, that we do not want them to duplicate Europe's mistakes here in our community.
We do not want WSDOT engineers peddling us their studies, statistics and computer simulations. We do not want our tax dollars spent building a roundabout on our 55 m.p.h. roads. Perhaps it is time they are reminded that they work for us, and we are not the unwitting subjects of their road experiments. Perhaps they need to be reminded that we are the ones footing the bill and we are the ones who use the roads, and that we will not accept our tax dollars being spent in irresponsible ways by irresponsible public officials who suppose they know what's best for us ordinary, country folk. Or maybe they believe we are all too busy to do anything about it so they can get away with whatever they want.
Where are you, representatives of the people? Are you hiding and closing your ears to our voices? We keep telling you we don't want roundabouts, we don't want statues on our bridges, we don't want more gas taxes, more property taxes, higher utility prices. We don't want to attend classes on how to drive through a roundabout. We don't want a roundabout. Elected officials—do you hear us? Put a stop to the roundabout and get the WSDOT engineers under control.
L. Alan Collins, Carnation