Roundabout way: MoDOT planning Cape's third roundabout for Lexington Avenue, Route W

Thursday, February 9, 2012
A truck waits for an opening in traffic to make a left-hand turn onto Lexington Avenue from Route W Wednesday evening, February 8, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. The Missouri Department of Transportation has proposed a multilane roundabout at the intersection. (Laura Simon)

Motorists in Cape Girardeau will have another place to drive in circles next year.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is planning Cape Girardeau's third roundabout at the Lexington Avenue-Route W intersection. The multilane roundabout will be the first of its type in Cape Girardeau, part of a $1.7 million project that also includes improvements to the intersection at Kingshighway and Mount Auburn Road.

"Improving the intersection at the Route W and Lexington intersection was desired because certain traffic maneuvers are desired," project manager Tim Richmond said. "As traffic growth continues, the issue could worsen."

The department is holding a public hearing to discuss its plans from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Osage Centre. The meeting will have an open-house format, which encourages a one-on-one conversation with a member of the project team. No formal presentation will be given.

The project, with costs divided between the city and the state, will include signal improvements at the Kingshighway intersection. Dual left-turn lanes will be added from Mount Auburn to Kingshighway, from Kingshighway to Lexington Avenue and from Lexington Avenue to Kingshighway. Also, a right-turn-only lane will be added from Kingshighway to Lexington Avenue.

Councilwoman Loretta Schneider listens as Missouri Department of Transportation project designer Jeff Wachter goes over the proposed roundabout at the Lexington Avenue-Route W intersection with city leaders Wednesday evening, February 8, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. Also from the department are senior highway designer Gretchen Hanks, intermediate traffic studies specialist Seth Bollinger and project manager Tim Richmond. A public hearing to discuss the roundabout is scheduled for Feb. 16 from 4-7 p.m. at the Osage Centre. (Laura Simon)

A second lane will be added to Lexington Avenue from Kingshighway east to Abbey Road. That is intended to "once and for all eliminate that irritating lane change," Richmond said.

The contract is expected to be awarded early next year with construction expected to be completed by fall in one construction season, Richmond said.

Several members of the state transportation department shared their plans with Cape Girardeau officials Wednesday afternoon at city hall. The plan was universally supported, even the roundabout, though Mayor Harry Rediger cautioned them to expect some opposition from residents at the public hearing.

"You're going to have some anti-roundabout talk. Just be aware of that," Rediger said. "And that's self-inflicted. We admit we're guilty because of our inefficient roundabout we built on Gordonville Road."

The city's first roundabout, at Gordonville and Silver Springs roads, caused controversy when it opened in 2001. Disgruntled drivers said the lane was too narrow. The city eventually widened the roundabout.

But Rediger called this roundabout, with its wide lanes, a "terrific" idea that could reduce the number of accidents there. Police chief Carl Kinnison said he was pleased with the roundabout and that it would be an improvement over the existing system that saw 20 motor-vehicle accidents over the past two years.

The roundabout shouldn't create problems for tractor-trailers and emergency vehicles like firetrucks, project designer Jeff Wachter said. The lanes are wide enough to handle that type of traffic, he said.

Richmond told the city officials that the department looked at putting in traffic signals there. But the traffic counts didn't warrant it.

"This isn't a campaign against traffic signals," Richmond said. "We do traffic signals all the time. But we ran the traffic models here and the signals do not do it. They would be too close to the signals at Kingshighway, and that would create congestion."

The roundabout would be one of the first of its kind in the state, Wachter said. It's not a one-lane roundabout like the ones in Cape Girardeau -- there's also one on Fountain Street -- and it's technically not a two-lane one. The planned roundabout has two lanes for only part of its circumference. State officials refer to it as a multilane roundabout.

It's unclear yet how the public will react, but one resident said Wednesday he's glad that city and state officials are looking at doing something. Ross McFerron, a lawyer who works near the site of the planned roundabout on Lexington Avenue, said the intersection as it exists is dangerous.

"Roundabouts are unusual," McFerron said. "But if the people who do this for a living think that it would make it safer, I don't have a problem with it."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address;

Lexington Avenue and Route W, Cape Girardeau, MO

Kingshighway and Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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