Urbana council to revisit roundabouts

Urbana council to revisit roundabouts

URBANA — Five months after Urbana residents with physical or visual disabilities told the city council that installing a roundabout at the Flordia Avenue and Philo Road intersection would cause problems, city officials are circling the issue again.

The council will revisit a discussion on roundabouts at two Urbana intersections when it meets on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

In August, a consultant told the council that, while there's no question that installing roundabouts at the Florida-Philo and Windsor-Race intersections would make them safer, installing such a traffic control might not make financial sense at Windsor and Race.

On the same night, residents who frequently travel to and from the PACE Center for Independent Living — which is near the Florida-Philo intersection — told council members that roundabouts disrupt the audible and tactile cues they use to cross traditional intersections safely.

The PACE Center for Independent Living is about half a block west of the Philo-Florida intersection, which means blind or low-vision pedestrians are crossing there frequently.

City administrators will return to the council on Monday night with new suggestions on how the situation might be approached. In a memo to council, city engineers tell the council that the research is in its beginning stages, but there are devices that can assist the visually and physically impaired in crossing the circular intersections.

The traffic signals at the two intersections are scheduled for improvements anyway, and city officials have presented these to the council as crossings that might be suitable for the installation of roundabouts.

The council has also agreed to hear extended testimony from Gary Cziko, an Urbana resident and the chairman of Champaign County Bikes. He said he plans to tell the council that installing roundabouts makes financial sense for both intersections. He will also present research that shows certain roundabout designs do not appear to create difficultly for blind or low-vision pedestrians.

In either case, installing roundabouts is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the scheduled improvements to the traditional intersections, but Cziko said the initial construction costs would be more than offset by the reduction in costs associated with traffic accidents.


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Smitto wrote on January 23, 2012 at 8:01 am

Ignorance at its finest!

A council of spider monkeys could make this decision, yet the Urbana city council keeps returning to this absurd idea. Lets just blow a couple hundred thousand dollars because we can! While we're at it, lets throw a giant prarie grass sculpture up over I-74!

787 wrote on January 23, 2012 at 8:01 am

So glad to see that the Urbana City Council has this continuing love affair with roundabouts.

It would appear that they have nothing better to discuss.


Of course, it is Urbana.  So no one should be surprised.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on January 23, 2012 at 9:01 am

Just another attempt to reinforce the Olympian drive/Goad Lady waist of money/farmland destructioneering by the Atkins/Prussing/Blue/County Board/city of Champaign.  Lets recall them all.

45solte wrote on January 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

If a 3-way stop intersection is allegedly causing so much trouble, why is it assumed that a round-about would be easier for drivers to figure out?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Given the tough economic times for states, and municipalities; it demonstrates poor judgement, or ...........................    Definitely, the streets need improvement, the public safety needs improvement, payments to public employee pensions needs to be addressed, etc................   This is just another statue, soccer stadium, walking trail, high speed train type of thing to spent money on.  Only in a community that declared itself an atomic bomb free zone during the Cold War would this absurdity continue.  Where is the money coming from?  What could it be spent on that is needed?

ronaldo wrote on January 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

First, neither of the intersections mentioned are "3-way" stops.  Philo/Florida has a four-way traffic light, and Windsor/Race has stop signs in all four directions.  Where did you read "3-way"?

Second, I hear an awful lot of whining, but not a lot of backing up their crying with facts.  If you've ever driven on them (suddenly, every commenter will have used them - **insert experience here**), they keep traffic moving smoothly, are very effficient, and produce fewer accidents than traditionally controlled intersections.  But why let facts stand in the way of a good rant?  I might encourage you to visit parts of the St. Louis metro area (Wildwood, to name one) where they are regularly used and then comment.

Simply google "roundabout statistics" and let the facts speak for themselves.




45solte wrote on January 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

So, there is no lack of ways existing over there to get people to stop and go in an orderly manner?  It's the human factor interfering with safety?  I guess I don't have much faith in people yielding and taking turns if they can't already do it at stop signs and traffic lights.  Call it whining if you wish, but, yes, I do think it is idiotic to spend way more than is necessary to fix up the area.  Under current economic circumstanaces the much more costly round-about would be a LOW priority, no? 

ClearVision wrote on January 27, 2012 at 10:01 am

I've driven and lived in areas of the country that feature traffic circles much more often than in the Midwest. I think they can be safer for vehicles, if most drivers know what's going on. You still get the overly-aggressive drivers who ignore right of way, and confused or hesitant drivers who can't deal with them in high traffic. (I also drove in England, where a lot of the highways had roundabouts, often  concatenated two or three in a row. Talk about confusing for the average tourist!)

However, I remain a sceptic regarding pedestrian safety. Very little of the discussion I see talks about pedestrian safety in a verifiable way. For instance, the links above mention pedestrian safety only in vague generalities with a lot of wiggle words (emphasis mine):

"[Traffic circles] make it look better and more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists."

"While it depends on the number of pedestrians and vehicles, in many instances, a modern roundabout can be safer for pedestrians than a traffic signal."

"Auto-pedestrian crash rates are usually lower at modern roundabouts than traffic signals."


ScottRAB wrote on January 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm
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You really should think longer-term.  The first cost of any two choices is a poor way to compare.  Life-cycle cost is the best (present value of future costs, a.k.a. net present value).  When comparing modern roundabouts to signals for a 20-year life cycle (the standard period), modern roundabouts usually cost us much less.  Costs to compare include: first cost (design/land/construction), operation and maintenance (electricity, re-striping, etc.), crash reduction, daily delay (what’s your time worth?), daily fuel consumption, pollution (generated), area insurance rates (this costs more where it is less safe to drive).  Each of these things, and others, can be estimated for any two choices and everyone near or using the project area will pay some portion of all of these costs.

As for confusion: “By 2025, a quarter of all drivers in the United States will be over the age of 65. Intersections are the single most dangerous traffic environment for drivers of any age with left-hand turns being the single most dangerous traffic maneuver that any of us can make. Forty percent of all crashes that involve drivers over the age of 65 occur at intersections. This is nearly twice the rate of experienced younger drivers. AARP would like to see more roundabouts constructed because of the many safety benefits that they present for drivers of all ages.” - Jana Lynott, AARP Public Policy Institute

serf wrote on January 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Interesting points, but let me play the part of the antagonist.


Most of the costs you cite seem to be a stretch.  It will cost a significant amount of money to redesign and build the roundabout.  This we agree on.  But how much will it really save?  

How much electricity do LED traffic lights really consume on an annual basis (I'm guessing not much when compared to hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the roundabout in the first place).  

The costs for re-striping are nothing, considering there are currently no stripes in the middle of the intersection anyway.  Additionally, if you want to split hairs you should add the cost of repainting the curb around the roundabout yellow every few years, or having public works take the time to mow the grass, plant the flowers, or clean up the trash in the middle of the roundabout.

Who cares about crash reduction?  The cost of crashes are paid for by those involved in the crashes, not the municipality.  Sorry if I seem callous, but I'm looking at this from a strictly financial perspective.  Additionally, can someone run the numbers to see how many traffic crashes occur at Philo and Florida in a given year.  I'm going to say very few.  

Time is worth nothing.  The 15 seconds that might be saved with a roundabout (and that's being generous) is insignificant.  

Fuel consumption is also not significant.  If it's that big of a deal, buy a hybrid that shuts off when stopped in traffic (or ride a bike, walk, or take the bus).  Again, this saves the municipality nothing.

Pollution is yet another stretch.  Mandate higher CAFE standards if you want to see real savings here.

Insurance rates are similarly inconsequential.  You won't see one iota of difference in your rates if we had two roundabouts in the community.  If you're worried about insurance rates, jail everyone who drives drunk.

So really, none of your arguments are really all that persuasive.  If you were being honest, you'd just say that you want a roundabout because they're cool and it's the hip thing to do in a progressive community.  That's really the only reason to want one of these things.


As for the danger of intersections, I agree with you.  However, Philo and Florida is not the type of intersection that is dangerous.  Dangerous intersections are T intersections without designated left turn lanes.  Drive north on Lincoln and try turning west on Eads with oncoming traffic.  THAT'S a dangerous intersection.

ScottRAB wrote on January 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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That's really callous.  Cities are sued all the time for design decisions.  Those costs are directly born by the taxpayers.   If the purpose of the 'improvement' is do what cost the least to the municipality, then do nothing.

serf wrote on January 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Yes, cities do get sued all the time for design decisions.  HOWEVER, neither intersection in question has led to any lawsuits (that I know of, anyway) because of their design.  It's not a question of needing to solve a problem.  It's just something that would be cool....that's all.  

svirpridon wrote on January 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I happen to pass through race and windsor twice daily. 15 seconds doesn't sound like much, till you realize it'd be about 2 hours a year saved. That's nothing to sneeze at -- especially if you multiply it out across everyone who commutes across it when it is busy.

Crash reduction matters -- that's fire and police time spent dealing with the crash, not to mention the time everyone else now must waste trying to detour around the crash. For R&W, that detour is going to mean up to Florida or south to Curtis, so its quite a detour.

I'd like to see more of them here because they seemed to work really well for England when I was there (lots less crashes or debris from such). Though that could alternately be because their driving test is actually a real trial that regularly fails people.

serf wrote on January 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I'm sneezing.  

2 hours a year is so insignificant that it doesn't even register.  Plus, it's not like you can save up that time and use it all at once.  It's odd that we're sitting here even debating such a silly topic.


I agree that crash reduction is important.  But how many crashes have their been at each intersection in the past 10 years?  I'm going to say that there haven't been too many.  I don't think it's taxing the fire and police departments, anyway.  I'm not sure what you're getting at with the whole detour thing (what's 'R&W'?)

I'm not against roundabouts, but I think it would make more sense to build them as the cities expand (like if they ever connect Florida to 130, somewhere in between).

dw wrote on January 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

2 hours, per year, per citizen.  That's a huge waste.  In terms of sustainability, a waste of human time (life) is the least sustainable activity.  You never get it back.

Currently that particular intersection does not have many crashes (Windsor and Race) because it is one of the safer designs in this city -- an all-way stop.  The problem is it can't process enough vehicles through the intersection during rush hours so it causes cars to queue up.  That causes unecessary fuel burn, which taken on a national scale causes our nation to do stupid things in pursuit of protecting our national interests -- waste of human life.  The decision is whether to change from an all-way stop to a signaled intersection, one of the most dangerous intersections in the world -- the insane amount of trust you put that a person is going to stop for that little red light...  a roundabout over a stoplight saves time, saves lives and saves fuel for every vehcile and person that uses it.  Nobody every speeds up to beat the roundabout, and drivers plowing through roundabouts drunk self-eliminate courtesy the big object de arte in the middle.  It's MUCH safer for pedestrians (3,000 roundabouts in the US, zero pedestrian fatalities).  Get there faster by driving slower and safer.

From a best-bang-for-your-buck perspective, they need to be introduced as soon as possible and it needs to be the default new intersection and the first choice for upgrading an all-way stop, but the first roundabouts need to be done in a fashion where the public can get used to them -- so a lower traffic situation like Windsor & Race/Philo are perfect.

Roundabouts increase the MPG of every vehicle that uses them, so a network of roundabouts in this town is critical if we want to solve our portion of the billion-dollar-a-day foreign oil problem.  That's definately nothing to sneeze at.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on January 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

City/County engineers; pavement contractors; how much does it cost the taxpayer to pay for an intersection TWICE?  Money from IDOT/ Federal to go into the pockets of the city/county engineers to justify their lack of work?  Stop the bleeding and lay them off onto half-time jobs and leave the streets alone.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm

In order to benefit in the most possible way, a compromise might be appropriate.  Why not close Main Street for vehicles between Race St., and Broadway Ave., and Broadway Ave. between Main St., and University Ave.?  Use the new signage that was necessary to direct traffic to Cunningham Ave., and Main St. with a roundabout at that intersection with no exits except Main St. east.  At least, it may revitalize the Downtown Urbana businesses.  Oh.... Buy a new statue for the center of the roundabout.  Something appropriate like Abe Lincoln Crying.  When are we going to get that hiking trail between Urbana, and Danville??????

illinigirl77 wrote on January 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm
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Anyone who thinks roundabouts are safer needs to come here to PA. They are everywhere here and are extremely confusing and dangerous.

dw wrote on January 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

It is critical when discussing roundabouts to understand exactly what is being proposed:  the roundabouts and traffic circles on the East Coast are not what is being proposed, rather a MODERN designed roundabout as opposed to atrocities such as jughandles and the DuPont circle in DC.

I would agree wholeheartedly that a lot of the intersections in Boston and the east coast are extremely confusing and dangerous.  This is not what is being proposed here.

serf wrote on January 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm

You know what intersection needs a roundabout?


5 points.  For real.  It would work there