Here comes roundabout No. 2

John Besaw of Stripe Rite uses a torch to apply vinyl stripes to the crosswalk at Madison and Wyatt Monday morning. Construction of a roundabout there is expected to begin next spring.     - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
John Besaw of Stripe Rite uses a torch to apply vinyl stripes to the crosswalk at Madison and Wyatt Monday morning. Construction of a roundabout there is expected to begin next spring.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Plans for a circle at Wyatt and Madison get mixed reviews.

Sometimes, it seems, familiarity breeds acceptance rather than contempt.

After the public imbroglio that preceded construction of the island’s first traffic roundabout at Madison and High School Road – when damning letters overwhelmed City Hall – response to plans for a second circle at Madison and Wyatt seems pretty tame.

“We’ve really tried hard on this one,” said Lorenz Eber, an engineer with the city’s Department of Public Works and champion of all things roundabout. “I probably did 15 iterations of it to get it to work. It took a bit of magic, but I think we’ve got a good design now.”

Designs for the circle and associated improvements west on Wyatt Way will be presented at a public workshop next Tuesday.

Plans call for a circle identical in size to the one on High School Road, about 107 feet in diameter from curb to curb.

Also included are meandering sidewalks, bike lanes, planter strips and some utility upgrades, plus a possible median strip by Grow Avenue.

Construction could begin next year; Eber’s department said increasing traffic along Wyatt – the main north-south route to and from downtown Winslow – will cause the current four-way stop to functionally fail within a few years.

Despite the more confined conditions at the Wyatt/Madison intersection, Eber said it should fit – with a minor adjustment to the eastern outlet on Wyatt, which will be moved slightly out of round.

“When you’re driving it, you’ll never notice it,” Eber said, “but if you looked at an aerial photograph, you’d see it squished down.”

The plan is getting mixed reviews from adjacent property owners.

George Lobisser, who owns the Wyatt House property on the northwest corner and the Four Swallows and auto garage parcels on the southwest, doesn’t mind that a roundabout will be replacing the current four-way stop.

“I think that with the growth in downtown Winslow and projected growth, a roundabout is needed or a traffic light,” Lobisser said, “but I prefer a roundabout.”

The current roundabout has been “working pretty well,” he said, makes for smoother traffic flow and avoids the noise and idling of the stopping and starting of a four-way stop.

“It’s a very narrow intersection, and in a perfect world, I’d like it to stay as it is,” Lobisser said of Madison/Wyatt. “(But) I can’t be selfish about this. It’s for the best of the community that traffic isn’t impacted there.”

But Chris Otorowski, who also owns property there, said the new roundabout would be dangerous for older and disabled pedestrians in the area.

Citing the current roundabout, Otorowski said, “(drivers) are always looking to the left and not to the right. I would think that the elderly residents of the Wyatt House and Island Health and Rehabilitation are at serious risk crossing that intersection if it’s a roundabout.”

Otorowski said access to adjacent businesses would be hurt, and that the city should consider a traffic signal there instead.

“Cars coming out of Pavilion are going to find it almost impossible to turn left, and it’s going to be dicey turning right,” he said. “You won’t have the stop and go flow that you have now.

But Lobisser said he plans to do some redevelopment on the Four Swallows parcel at some point, and that some driveways could be moved at that point for better access.

And then there’s the question of trees.

Eber said most of the trees around the circle can be preserved, including those on the northeast corner. A large poplar at the northwest corner would be lost, but Eber said the tree is aging and diseased.

Others at the southeast corner could be moved to the perimeter of the project, he said.

“There’s no sense in cutting down a good tree that’s already there if we can save it,” Eber said.

* * * * *

Round and round

The Department of Public Works will present designs for a roundabout at the Madison/Wyatt intersection at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 at City Hall. Information: 842-7633.

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