The Norman Transcript

August 21, 2013

Roundabout discussion going in circles

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman City Council members reached no consensus Tuesday night after a lengthy special session to consider future design options for Lindsey Street.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren urged council members to make Lindsey Street a boulevard instead of an arterial highway. The discussion came on the heels of an analysis and report by the city design team steering the city away from a proposal for roundabouts at three intersections along west Lindsey Street.

“Ultimately, the city staff can only do so much,” Boren said. “The decisions about where the city wants to go is made by the elected representatives.”

Earlier this summer, the university sponsored a series of dialogues through the Institute for Quality Communities.

IQC hosted Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute and his team of design specialists. Burden proposed landscaped medians and the use of roundabouts at three intersections to slow traffic.

Several stakeholders who own or operate businesses on Lindsey Street said they support the vision proposed by Burden, but the city design team said roundabouts are not feasible.

The design team supports the addition of a landscaped medians along Lindsey but estimates additional right of way costs for roundabouts at $4.5 million.

Other additional costs associated with two-lane roundabouts would include another half million dollars for construction as well as additional design fees, landscaping, irrigation and maintenance costs totaling another half million dollars. City staff also rated roundabouts as less efficient for traffic flow in this instance.

Blair Humphreys, executive director for the IQC, said Lindsey does not have to be four lanes, and the roundabouts do not have to be large, two-lane roundabouts. Burden originally proposed single-lane roundabouts. Those would not need additional right of way acquisition.

Lindsey could be widened to four lanes (two lanes each direction) with a center median from 24th Avenue Southwest to McGee Drive. The road would then narrow to two lanes from that point eastward.

Bike lanes and turnouts would allow room for vehicles to pull over if an ambulance or other emergency vehicle needed to pass. That extra space also would allow for the potential widening to four lanes later if needed.

Humphreys also disagreed with the city’s analysis of traffic flow using roundabouts.

Attorney Harold Heiple who represents the Norman Developers Council, wrote council members saying he supports roundabouts for Lindsey Street.

“As I understand the city staff analysis, it appears to me that the Burden proposal cannot be accomplished using a two-lane roundabout design because of the amount of land required for the two-lane design,” Heiple wrote. “However, instead of walking away from roundabouts, consider the original Burden proposal for one-lane roundabouts at Murphy, McGee, Wylie and Berry and a U-turn signal for westbound Lindsey traffic at 24th.”

Several council members appear to be on board for including, or at least seriously considering, the use of roundabouts on Lindsey.

Boren said the built environment will affect how that environment is used.

“I would urge you to think long-term,” Boren said.

Council member Stephen Tyler Holman said his generation is driving less. He supports keeping traffic counts down on Lindsey Street.

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said if traffic is to be encouraged away from Lindsey, the city needs to ask where that traffic will be absorbed.

Council member Tom Kovach said project plans are well under way. A public vote supported a widened version of Lindsey, and the city analysis does not support roundabouts as a feasible option in this instance.

“There’s only so much you can do to a train moving down the track,” Kovach said.

City council members will continue discussions on the vision for Lindsey Street next week.

Joy Hampton