New Cape roundabout draws largely positive comments at hearing

Friday, February 17, 2012
Wayne Shockley, right, of La Croix Methodist Church, talks about the plans for construction of a roundabout at the Lexington Avenue and Route W intersection with John Bechtold, traffic studies specialist for the Missouri Department of Transportation, during a public meeting on the project at the Osage Centre on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, in Cape Girardeau. (Kristin Eberts)

Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger had a warning for state transportation officials last week: Expect some "anti-roundabout" sentiments to be shared at Thursday's public hearing on the matter.

Those concerns never seemed to materialize during the three-hour forum, as most of the comments -- at least the ones that were shared -- seemed to favor the proposed $1.7 million roundabout at the Lexington Avenue-Route W intersection.

"From what I see of it, I'm pretty pleased," said Dan Niswonger, a former police officer who worked traffic before being injured on the job 18 years ago.

The forum was hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation, which is proposing the improvements, and included computer traffic simulations and offered comment cards that could be mailed in. An estimated 30 people attended the forum, which was held at the Osage Centre.

Niswonger and others knew what the mayor was referring to with his admonition. The city's first roundabout at Gordonville and Silver Springs roads caused navigational nightmares when it opened in 2001. Irritated drivers said the lane was too narrow and the city eventually had to widen it.

"I'm skeptical about roundabouts," Niswonger said. "Especially since that one on Silver Springs, which was a huge mistake."

But the residents who came to the meeting at least said they were willing to at least give this new one a try.

"I think it's going to be great," said Danny Essner, a Cape Girardeau banker. "You drive through them and you very seldom have to stop. That's what's nice about it."

Not that anyone suggested that the roundabout has the full support of the community. In fact, a online poll this week suggests that the community is divided.

Of 537 votes so far, 53.3 percent (286) said they don't like roundabouts; about 26 percent (141 votes) said they do; 15.3 percent (82 votes) said they don't mind roundabouts but that they're not sure about the multilane aspect; and slightly more than 5 percent said they're not sure.

Project designer Jeff

Wachter acknowledged that a certain segment doesn't like them simply because they're relatively new in the U.S. But he's optimistic that as drivers actually use them and get used to them, they'll become more accepted.

"I think they'll like it, I really do," he said. "We've designed several of these, and we always get negative comments at first. But once they open up, people like them."

The roundabout is only one aspect to the project, which is expected to be constructed next year. The project, with costs divided between the city and the state, will include signal improvements at the nearby Kingshighway intersection. Dual left-turn lanes will be added from Mount Auburn Road 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.

A second lane will be added to Lexington Avenue from Kingshighway east to Abbey Road. That is intended to eliminate what highway officials described as an "irritating lane change."

But the roundabout seemed to draw much of the attention Thursday. The planned roundabout, 200 feet in diameter, has two lanes for only part of its circumference, which officials refer to as a multilane roundabout.

Terry Ashby doesn't like everything about roundabouts, either. He's noticed that drivers tend to stop at the yield signs even if no traffic is in the roundabouts.

"But anything they do here is going to be an improvement," he said. "We're just tickled they're going to do something."


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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