City, county at odds over Lincoln-Olympian intersection

City, county at odds over Lincoln-Olympian intersection

URBANA — Champaign County Board members have told the Urbana City Council in no uncertain terms that they don't want a traffic roundabout at the intersection of Olympian Drive and Lincoln Avenue.

It's now up to Urbana City Council members to determine if they're willing to fight for a roundabout versus a traditional intersection design.

Mayor Laurel Prussing said roundabouts are the future and indicated that she'll continue to push for them.

"I'm not going to go back on years of study that the Urbana City Council has put into this. We'll take their advisory vote under consideration," she said. "But we want them to see that the world is really going toward roundabouts. The United States is going in that direction."

Still, it's not the county board's call; the Olympian Drive project is Urbana's and will receive no county funding.

But the county holds one important card.

If the project requires condemnation, it would be the county, not the city of Urbana, that would use its eminent-domain authority.

"I've got inkling ... from some folks on the county board that if we advised the city of Urbana that we don't want the roundabout and the city of Urbana goes against our advice and we come back to the county board to vote to condemn property for the project, then the county board might say: 'Who are you, city of Urbana, you didn't take our advice, so we're not going to condemn.' Project done, see ya later," said Jeff Blue, the county's highway engineer.

The county board voted 17-9 Tuesday night to tell Urbana that it preferred a regular intersection design at Olympian and Lincoln. The yes votes included 10 Republicans and seven Democrats, among them Urbana Democrats Chris Alix, Brendan McGinty and James Quisenberry.

Tuesday's vote was only preliminary; the county board will take final action at its May 24 meeting.

Quisenberry said he believed roundabouts are appropriate in some areas, "but I cannot be convinced of the justification of putting one at this intersection, given its neighborhood, its usage and so forth."

"This isn't a question of whether roundabouts are good or not. There are several intersections in Urbana where I'd like to see a roundabout. I just don't believe that this one makes sense."

McGinty said that residents of the rural area around Lincoln and Olympian don't want a roundabout.

"For that particular location, I think a stop sign will work just fine for the next 25 years," he said.

Mahomet Republican Stephanie Holderfield said Urbana was being "disrespectful" in pushing a roundabout at the site.

"What we're looking at is putting a roundabout in the middle of nowhere. For what purpose? Because we now have the city of Urbana determining that this is in the best interest of the people in the rural community," she said.

Rural Urbana Republican Steve Moser, a farmer, said large farm machinery and equipment could create "a traffic jam" at the rural intersection.

"As long as we've got mega-farmers going all the way around this town, I see no use for a roundabout to make things worse than they are," he said.

Ralph Langenheim was one of the eight Democrats (along with Republican Steve O'Connor) to vote against the motion for a traditional intersection design. He said he originally opposed roundabouts but now favors them because they are less expensive to build and use less energy.

"They are a good thing from an engineering and social point of view," he said.

Prussing said she was disappointed in the votes of Alix, McGinty and Quisenberry.

"I would say that's unfortunate, because when county boards were redesigned in 1972, the purpose was to give urban people an equal voice on the county board. One of the key things is that more than two-thirds of county government is paid for by urban people," Prussing said. "Brendan (McGinty) said he was concerned about the rural people. That's fine, but he does represent District 9 (southeast Urbana)."

And she predicted the issue "may become moot."

"What might happen is that this might become a federal standard. Road planners are looking ahead, and Urbana is looking ahead. The whole state of Indiana, which is very conservative politically, is installing roundabouts like crazy."

Urbana officials did take one major vote Tuesday night. The county board committed to help with half the funding for an estimated $1.1 million reconstruction of Philo Road, south of Windsor Road. The work is expected to begin later this year, although the county's payment may not come for two or three years, because of existing financial commitments.

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David Illinois wrote on May 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

The Mayor and a few council members love raising taxes and proposing roundabouts!

MadGasser wrote on May 10, 2012 at 9:05 am
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Why is everyone going to be so upset about a roundabout in this area? The intersection doesn't even exist yet, so what's the big deal? If the proposed roundabout at this intersection is going to be cheaper to install than a traditional intersection I say go for it!

pattsi wrote on May 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

Something to reflect upon is the gestalt of the situation, not just bottom line cost. In fact, it i not clear that roundabouts actually cost less than signals. Issues that relate to cost are need for more land for a round about, example Race and Windsor, size of roundabout to accommodate types of vehicles using it, such a super large combines, do round abouts really save monies related to gas useage at a particular intersection, there are absolutely no controlled studies so there is no data to answer this question. Round abouts have a purpose, but not unilaterally.

xb wrote on May 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

 No studies? Go to and search.
 I think the main savings is in less death and serious injury.  There is a lot lower chance of getting a direct side crash from someone going through the intersection.

pattsi wrote on May 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Please sight studies that show exact savings and results against controlled studies. This is what I stated is lacking. I can find all too many studies that would not pass muster as scientific research. Studies show antedotal findings. Plus there are no studies on a round about effectiveness in the middle of farm land designed to accommodate huge farm equipment.

Smitto wrote on May 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

People in this town can't even properly execute a traditional 4-way stop, there is no way they easily pick up driving through a roundabout!

Go sit at the corner of Vine & Washington or Vine & Florida. It is infuriating for good drivers, but I bet it is comedic gold for a simple bystander. Roundabouts just aren't going to work at major intersections in a city like Urbana.

How about they fix the roads we have instead of continuing on with useless debates on roundabouts!

serf wrote on May 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm

By your logic, I come away thinking that a roundabout at Vine and Washington might be a good idea, not a bad one.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on May 11, 2012 at 12:05 am
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The typical Urbana driver is too busy chatting into her cell phone. Can't be bothered to watch for his turn. Therefore, she negotiates a four way stop by timing and guestimation. If he's been there for a while, it's probaly time to go.

billbtri5 wrote on May 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

yes, please save the taxpayers money and forget the entire project....

nbmiller wrote on May 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

What is this love affair with roundabouts?  They are not the future, they have been around for a hundred years.  They only make sense in high traffic situations, and they take up a huge amount of space.

ronaldo wrote on May 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Actually, they don't take up "a huge amount of space".  Most can be retrofit directly into any intersection of two, four-lane roads + a small amount at each corner, which is always dedicated right-of-way anyway.  I see them going in all over in more forward thinking communities.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

It will need a statue in the center of it.  Who besides the county, and Urbana will be paying the cost?  What happened to the trolleys that were needed?  When is that hiking trail from Urbana to Danville going to be built?  Are we ever going to get that high speed train from Champaign to Chicago so we can get to Chicago one hour earlier?  What about funding what is needed versus wants, and whims?

ScottRAB wrote on May 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm
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Regarding costs,

     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.

More info:

If the intersection doesn't need a roundabout, the space should still be reserved.  As for large loads, any intersection can be designed for them.  Carmel is mostly rural, and they seem to do fine with modern roundabouts everywhere.

   Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world.  Search for FAQs and safety facts.

   If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout, search to see pictures.  The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate ( ).

serf wrote on May 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I was critical of roundabouts in past discussions, but that criticism was mainly because I didn't feel it was fiscally appropriate to install a roundabout on an already perfectly good intersection.


However, it seems to me to be a grand idea to install a roundabout on a road when the road is being initially constructed.  People would get used to it in no time and it is hard to argue against the fact that they are statistically safer.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on May 12, 2012 at 10:05 am

roundabout cost for replacing an existing intersection:

cost of existing intersection to include Hanson Engineering studies and the cost of the real estate or actual land, cost of all materials for the pre-existing intersection to include removal of all underground substrates, cables, drainpipes, accumulated maintenance costs from time of original construction, removal cost of all stoplights/stopsigns and transportation of existing materials away from the site.

WHEN THE GOAD LADY supplies the voting public an actual cost of all of the above could the actual cost of ANY project be determined--or--the construction of a roundabout AFTER the total cost of everything above could the final amount be determined.  This means without any doubt that RECONSTRUCTION costs 3-10 TIMES more. GET IT? GET IT?

Carmel Indiana is the following:  Rush hour; intense high traffic, new booming area that is ideal for roundabouts with high density traffic in low speed areas.




serf wrote on May 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

To quote the immortal words of General Aladeen: Take a chill pill.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

Can the money be found to built roundabouts, and fix Windsor Road?  How about taxing bicyle riders, and pedestrians for bike lanes, and cross walks?  Where did the money come from for the new walk way, and bridge on Rt. 130 from Windsor Road to the pizza place?  Is the walk way going to continue to Rt. 150?  Is it part of the hiking trail from Urbana to Danville?  Where is the money coming from?  Are existing obligations being paid; or is the money for the obligations being used for the new things?  Where is the money coming from; and where is it going?  What are the priorities?

goinfast00 wrote on May 17, 2012 at 6:05 am