URBANA — Following weeks of debate, the Urbana City Council on Monday night dropped a proposal to build roundabouts at two key intersections, but residents should expect discussions on the circular intersections to continue in to the future.
The intersection at Florida Avenue and Philo Road is now on track to receive a $200,000 scheduled upgrade to its existing traffic lights — that was the alternative to the $850,000 roundabout construction council members denied.
Nothing will happen immediately at the intersection at Windsor Road and Race Street, where officials had proposed to spend $210,000 to replace stop signs with traffic lights or spend $1.44 million to install a roundabout. But council members want city administrators to examine whether a different traffic design or a smaller kind of roundabout would move traffic more safely or efficiently there.
Roundabouts are bound to come up again at some point after city council members asked administrators to design a set of criteria to evaluate whether roundabouts would be an appropriate proposal in future road projects.
Council members ultimately said they would consider retrofitting Urbana intersections with roundabouts in the future, but the two proposals they have been discussing for months did not get their support on Monday.
The denial was issued after people with disabilities, many of whom frequent the PACE Center for Independent Living near the Florida/Philo intersection, said roundabouts disrupt the tactile and visual cues they use to cross intersections. They now have spent hours trying to convince city officials that roundabouts would be unsafe for people with physical, visual or hearing impairments.
"It is not that we don't understand about the splitter islands and the length of time that it takes to cross them," said Hadley Ravencroft, the program director at the PACE center. "We understand how roundabouts are built. It is perhaps that you don't understand more about our lives and the accessibility needs that we have. So please don't make us an afterthought."
Part of Monday's decision included council members asking administrators to include people with disabilities in their future discussions about roundabouts.
Advocates said roundabouts would indeed be safer. Over the weeks of debate, members of Champaign County Bikes have told council members that, of about 3,000 roundabouts that have been installed in the United States, there have been no fatalities among drivers or other road-users.
"It's a remarkable safety record for bicyclists and pedestrians," said Carl Stewart, vice chair of Champaign County Bikes.
Public Works Director Bill Gray reminded council members of the city's financial situation, too. The funds that would normally be tapped for roundabout construction are committed to other projects in the future.
"You've seen our capital improvement plan," Gray said. "We are in the red to the tune of millions of dollars two or three years out."