By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — There is no way round it; city council members want pubic input on whether Lindsey Street improvements should include roundabouts, slower speeds and two lanes rather than four lanes east of McGee Drive.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal proposed the public hearing for Tuesday following the Labor Day holiday.
“I’ve been struggling with this whole thing quite a bit and to this day don’t know which one’s better,” Council member Chad Williams said of the proposals.
Williams said he wants feedback from his constituents to learn what they want.
“It’s their road,” he said. “They’re the ones paying for it.”
Council member Lynne Miller said while the ballot language would not specifically prohibit the changes proposed by the University of Oklahoma, there was a perception of what would be done on Lindsey when people voted in favor of the transportation bond package. She also wants to hear from people.
“There was a lot of input in the original plan,” Miller said.
OU, through its Institute of Quality Communities, has supported landscaped medians and other aesthetic and safety improvements that Norman city staff has supported.
The sticking point, however, has been whether roundabouts are appropriate rather than signal lights at some of the intersections along Lindsey. Also under dispute has been whether Lindsey should be widened to four lanes for the entire distance from 24th Avenue Southwest to Berry Road.
The university has proposed that Lindsey be widened to four lanes west of McGee Drive but use two lanes east of McGee Drive. The road would maintain the same width as the four-lane footprint, but with buffered bike lanes and an auxiliary lane replacing one lane of traffic. The auxiliary lane would allow CART bus stops and for vehicles to transition out of the flow of traffic as they turn into business driveways.
OU brought engineer Ernie Peters to report on the potential use of roundabouts.
Peters said the focus for roundabouts is on the eastern leg of the Lindsey project. He said a single-lane roundabout would not be as functional at McGee Drive as at other locations. In particular, a single-lane roundabout is recommended for the Berry Road intersection.
Eddie Haas of Freese and Nichols, reporting for the city, showed that roundabouts could work at Berry Road and east of Berry along Lindsey.
Norman has limited access corridors and Haas does not believe traffic will divert all the way over to State Highway 9. Some residential streets might have to absorb the diverted traffic.
Norman’s current land use plan identifies Lindsey Street as an arterial corridor and it will take council action to enact an ordiance to change that land use designation.
“We really have limited corridors that we’re looking at,” Haas said.
Haas showed that both plans — the city’s proposal for four lanes and the IQC proposal for roundabouts and two lanes east of McGee — could work and should increase safety. The roundabouts would result in much slower traffic and delays during peak-use hours.
Lindsey has more than 53 driveways per mile for this corridor, and those contribute to accidents. Both plans would decrease the number of driveways along Lindsey.
The city’s four-lane proposal would likely have a speed limit of 35 miles per hour. The IQC proposal would hope for a 25 mile per hour speed limit but with continuous movement because of the use of the roundabouts.
City staff reported a concern about delayed emergency response times if roundabouts are used, and the city council is taking that concern and others under advisement.
Norman Fire Chief James Fullingim said the fire department will respond, but Norman has a larger land area than most cities with similar populations. What works in Carmel, Ind., may result in slower response times in Norman.
Carmel is a city of about 81,000 as of 2011. It is comprised of 48 square miles.
“They don’t have to drive as far as we do,” Fullingim said. “We’re spread out further.”
Five minutes is the national standard for response times, and the Norman Fire Department is trying to stay below that standard. Roundabouts on Lindsey could slow down response times.
“I’m not saying people will die,” he said. “I’m not saying don’t do it (roundabouts). I’m saying it’s a trade-off.”