Roundabout is 'preferred option' for Little Falls intersection

8 Jul 2023

Infrastructure, Economic Development, News, Community

Love them or hate them, one Little Falls intersection could be controlled by a roundabout in the not-so-distant future.

Monday, City Engineer Greg Kimman presented to the City Council the results of an intersection control evaluation (ICE) study conducted by Bolton and Menk. The study looked at the intersection of Trunk Highway 27 and 18th Street Northeast. The report concluded that the preferred option would be an “unbalanced roundabout.”

“If you’ve driven through that intersection, you know that there’s issues with the U-turns in that intersection,” Kimman said. “The U-turns are causing a delay in traffic on the southbound 18th Street that are turning west, so that right turn gets to be extended.”

Taking traffic counts into account, the ICE report forecasted that 20 years from now, traffic will increase and, in turn, so will the conflicts — or accidents — at that intersection.

Kimman said there were a total of 57 unreportable crashes — one that results in less than $1,000 in damage — at the intersection during the last five years. He added that relatively minor “fender benders” are what one would expect, due to the slow speed at which crashes occur at that location.

However, he said it was the wait times for drivers heading north on 18th Street Northeast and looking to turn left onto 27 that really caused them to explore other options. Currently, the intersection is controlled by a traffic light.

The preferred option is called an “unbalanced roundabout,” due to the number of lanes on each roadway. There would be two eastbound and westbound lanes on Highway 27, while the northbound and southbound roadways on 18th Street Northeast would consist of one lane.

It was far from the only option explored by Bolton and Menk. They also considered a pair of options in which a right turn lane would be added to southbound traffic on 18th Street to merge onto 27. In that case, there would still be a stoplight. One of those included a dedicated lane for those turning right that would only make drivers yield for thru-traffic on Highway 27.

“One of the things that I don’t necessarily like about this intersection layout is that you still have those U-turns at 18th Street and you still have that conflict in the northwest quadrant from those folks turning from 18th onto 27, making that right,” Kimman said.

He added that the “channelized” right turn, would make it difficult for larger vehicles to make a U-turn at the intersection because of an extended curb.

One of the key positives in constructing a roundabout — aside from the lowered accident risk — is that it would significantly reduce wait times for traffic coming from all directions. In a roundabout, traffic is always moving.

Another option presented by Bolton and Menk was a two-by-one hybrid roundabout. This would be essentially the same as the preferred option, only it would add an extra right turn lane from the north side of 18th Street Northeast onto Highway 27.

Kimman said, if traffic expands and grows as forecasted, it might be worth considering such a configuration in about 20 years.

Read the full article here.