By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A state transportation project to install a roundabout at a high-profile intersection just west of Yukon is on hold after two Canadian County commissioners asked for more input on the proposal.
County commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday morning, tabled indefinitely a resolution for Canadian County to participate with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) in a “paving and safety project” at State Highway 66 and Banner Road. The intersection is within the state right-of-way, but Canadian County participation is required for upgrades to be made.
The resolution presented Monday was for ODOT to install a roundabout at the SH-66/Banner Road intersection, a project endorsed by District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader after discussions with state traffic engineers. Canadian County would pay for design and engineering costs.
Hader – the county board chairman – said he couldn’t say whether installing a roundabout was a “done deal” or if ODOT would place the project on its commission agenda for formal approval.
“I’m doing what I can as you’re elected representative,” Hader told audience members.
Other possible safety measures – most notably new traffic signals – have been suggested for the intersection. Several residents spoke at Monday morning’s meeting (see related story) about their support of installing new traffic signals with the county maintaining the equipment.
District 2 Canadian County Commissioner David Anderson did not want to sign the resolution for a roundabout until speaking directly with ODOT officials about the proposed SH-66/Banner Road roundabout.
“I want to be a little more informed about the project,” Anderson said. “I’ve not talked to anyone about it.
“I won’t need a lot of time. I’ll just make a few calls and get ‘up to speed’ on what’s transpired so far. I know the background of the events that have happened out there. I’ve been aware that Canadian County has been paying the electric bill out there for a long time; it is District 1 funds.”
Directly addressing Hader, Commissioner Anderson said, “To your credit, you’ve been negotiating with ODOT and have in these meetings; I have not. Is a roundabout going to accommodate traffic? I don’t know.
“It is an ODOT project. It is their decision what they put on their infrastructure.”
In February, ODOT crews installed a four-way stop with flashing red lights in all directions at an interim safety measure before a permanent upgrade is made.
Commissioner Hader read aloud the proposed resolution that would fund construction of a new roundabout at SH-66 and Banner Road.
The resolution indicates:
• An ODOT traffic study indicates a desire for safety upgrades at the intersection.
• ODOT has agreed to use the state traffic division’s safety project funds for construction of the paving and safety project. (ODOT public safety manager Terri Angier has estimated the state’s cost for a new roundabout there would be $400,000-$450,000)
• Canadian County would pay an estimated $94,045 to provide civil engineering and design for the project through a private civil design firm to “expedite” the timeline and completion.
• Existing traffic signals will be removed by the time the project is finished.
• Construction supervision and maintenance of the intersection in the state right-of-way will remain with ODOT during and after project completion.
The new roundabout construction could be finished by the end of calendar year 2020 with Canadian County paying the engineering costs, Commissioner Hader said.
‘LITTLE BIT OF AN UNKNOWN’
District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart also wanted to wait to receive more input before approving a new roundabout.
“It’s almost like we’re making a decision on a little bit of an unknown without having a design in front of us to look at,” he said.
“These roundabouts – worldwide – are very popular. They say they work real well after an initial getting used to. If there are accidents on them, they’re side-swipes – not head-on or T-bones. I could see how it could work.”
No matter what the ultimate decision is – whether a roundabout, permanent four-way stop or new traffic signals, Commissioner Hader said not everyone will be happy.
“We just have to try and make the best decision we can make with the variables in place,” he said. “I don’t get to make the final decision on this. This is my effort – my fourth effort in about a two-year timeframe to try and make things safer.”
By Canadian County offering to pay $94,045 for design and engineering of the proposed roundabout “shows our sincerity” to come up with the “safest solution as we can,” the District 1 commissioner added.
“Ultimately, there’s only so much county governments, municipal governments or ODOT can do,” Hader said. “We can put up all the signs, flashing lights and striping. At some point, it’s up to us as citizens to be defensive drivers in these situations.”
ODOT officials last month talked about their support of a new roundabout at the SH-66/Banner Road intersection.
The roundabout will provide a physical slow-down for motorists crossing through the intersection, according to ODOT Public Relations Manager Terri Angier.
“You can’t run a roundabout like you can run a stoplight,” Angier said. “There’s no barriers to somebody running a stoplight or a stop sign. … With a roundabout, you have to slow down and pay attention. That was another contributing factor – besides the long-term maintenance – that really made it very, very attractive.”