Roundabout way of driving doesn't work for truckers

Wednesday, December 3, 2003
A new roundabout at U.S. 61 and Main Street in Perryville, Mo., has caused problems for truckers, forcing MoDOT to close the intersection and construct a truck skirt similar to the one in Cape Girardeau at Silver Springs and Gordonville roads.

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- A new concrete roundabout in Perryville is frustrating truckers, who see it as a major highway hazard and a waste of tax dollars. They say it's difficult to navigate their large rigs in Southeast Missouri's newest roundabout -- an oval-shaped interchange at U.S. 61 and Main Street.

Since it opened 11 days ago, the tires of large trucks routinely scrape the roundabout's inner curb. One truck even got stuck on the curb, temporarily backing up traffic, state highway officials said.

"You are either going to rub tires on the curbs or tires will be up on the inside island," said Brad Krauss, co-owner of Krauss Trucking in Perryville. He said one of his trucks blew a tire in the roundabout on Sunday.

As a result of such complaints, the Missouri Department of Transportation has decided to widen the 18-foot wide concrete driving lane of the roundabout by as much as 12 feet in some spots so it no longer will be a hazard for large trucks.

State highway officials said the "truck apron" will be 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches higher than the regular driving lane to discourage motorists from using it as an extra lane for cars and pickup trucks.

MoDOT's decision to widen the Perryville roundabout is similar to a situation in Cape Girardeau in the summer of 2001. The city widened the pavement of its only roundabout by 2 feet to keep motorists from running over the curbs. Cape Girardeau's roundabout is at Silver Springs and Gordonville roads -- not on a major thoroughfare like the one in Perryville -- and trucks became stuck there too, prior to the widening.

Penzel Construction Co. of Jackson built the Perryville roundabout as part of a $4.5 million U.S. 61 widening project that began in June and is expected to be completed by next summer. It replaced a four-way stop with a flashing red traffic signal.

The roundabout will be closed for at least five days, beginning Monday, while Penzel widens it. MoDOT estimates it will spend $20,000 to $30,000 in tax dollars to fix the problem.

This is the fourth roundabout to be built on the state highway system and the first on a state route in Southeast Missouri.

"Certainly we will learn from it," said Scott Meyer, MoDOT district engineer in Sikeston. MoDOT is looking to build more roundabouts where warranted.

Perryville's roundabout also has drawn criticism from officials at Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., a food manufacturer that has plants in Perryville and ships its products by truck.

The roundabout -- which is much larger than Cape Girardeau's -- is too small for the company's large trucks, said Delbert Dethrow, vice president of transportation for Gilster-Mary Lee.

It's a problem for farmers too. Farm combines can't travel in the roundabout without jumping the curb, Dethrow said.

"I don't see any advantage over the four-way stop," he said.

But Larry Buff, who owns the Buff Motors car dealership, likes the new roundabout. He said car and pickup truck drivers travel through the interchange without any problem, and traffic doesn't back up like it did when there was a four-way stop.

"It just takes a little getting used to," said Buff, whose office window affords a clear view of the roundabout.

Buff said the roundabout's free flowing right-turn lanes on Main Street -- which allow motorists to turn onto U.S. 61 without having to drive in the roundabout lane -- also help move the traffic.

MoDOT relied on the advice of a consultant in drawing up plans for the roundabout and didn't realize the traffic problem until after the roundabout opened, highway officials said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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