Following is a summary of some key benefits of replacing the two signal-controlled intersections at the 5-Points with a set of two modern roundabouts:
While the bypass would have cost taxpayers more than $17 million, two modern roundabouts can be installed at this location for a fraction of that amount. Even after adding in the time and money already spent on the bypass boondoggle, it is still a great deal for the taxpayers. At three to five million it’s a bargain when compared with the bypass because it will actually solve the congestion problems at this intersection. Proper analysis will confirm it is the most cost effective solution to the problem at hand. Up to now we have not received any cost estimates for the consultants most recent proposal that creates another signal controlled intersection on FM 270. Moreover, we have not been given any level of service estimates for this latest scheme.
It is clear that city officials desire a solution that will not require closing the existing intersections and keeps disruption of traffic here at a minimum. As a result they are in essence putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. In
Spatial Considerations and Right of Way
Some have argued that there is simply not enough right of way to build two roundabouts at the “five points” location. Modern roundabouts do not always require additional right of way to build. In the case of a large, signal-controlled intersection, there is likely surplus right of way because the approaches to the roundabout are more narrow than traditional intersections. Proper analysis will reveal that existing commercial development at the “five points” will be largely unaffected by the installation of roundabouts, with one notable exception: Access to nearby businesses will likely be improved thus making this area more attractive to shoppers and new businesses. Compared with some of the other alternatives, the amount of additional right of way needed to install two roundabouts is insignificant.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), accident rates plunge when traditional intersections are replaced with modern roundabouts. Fatal accidents are virtually eliminated, injury accidents decrease by as much as 80%, and all accidents decrease by 40% or more. In several places near the 5-Points, difficult and dangerous left turns across three lanes of traffic will be unnecessary because the roundabout makes for an easy and safe U-turn. For pedestrians and bicyclists, these large signal-controlled intersection can be intimidating, unfriendly, and even dangerous because of the number of lanes that have to be crossed, turning vehicles, and the speed of the traffic. Because roundabouts are designed to slow traffic as it passes through, research demonstrates that they are clearly safer and more user friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrians are also much less likely to be fatally injured if accidentally struck by a vehicle at a roundabout. After the first fatality at the “five points” or one of the new intersections installed on the bypass, our 20/20 hindsight will be of little comfort to loved ones left grieving in the wake of a needless loss. One issue that may warrant research is whether roundabouts have a calming affect on drivers. There is some evidence that they do since one seldom needs to stop at a roundabout. If so, there may be the added benefit of reducing driver stress and dangerous behaviors. These benefits alone make this alternative worthy of more study.
Along with increased safety, roundabouts provide increased efficiency, particularly during periods of peak traffic volume. During rush hour, a modern roundabout can increase the volume of traffic, measured in vehicles per hour (VPH), through the intersection by 20-50 percent. Vehicle queues are either eliminated or significantly shortened, thus eliminating the need for those additional turn lanes, making it possible to employ narrower roads. One excellent example of this is in
Stop and go driving is inherently inefficient. Roundabouts eliminate the need to stop at the intersection - except on occasion during peak usage - thereby saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel annually. Moreover, there are corresponding reductions in vehicle emissions and contaminated water runoff. Roundabouts are clearly more friendly to our environment than traditional alternatives. The bypass, on the other hand, is a multifaceted environmental nuisance. Moreover, it is a waste of valuable real estate that is better used to improve the city's tax base or perhaps as a new park.
Let’s be honest, traditional signal-controlled intersections are just plain ugly. The landscaping and other treatments installed with a roundabout make the intersection more appealing to everyone. The treatments in the center island can anything from a magnificent fountain, to trees and shrubs, to flagpoles or statues. All at once it engenders a sense of serenity and grandeur. By capturing the drivers attention he is immediately made aware that the road ahead is changing. These new roundabouts will create a dynamic gateway to League City as well as the Galveston Bay and Clear Lake recreation areas.
Cost of Maintenance
Roundabouts are also generally cheaper to maintain than traditional intersections. It really depends on the type and amount of landscaping and other treatments used at the site. By eliminating the signal lights, the city will also save $3000 to $5000 per year, per intersection in electricity costs. In some jurisdictions the savings is on the order of $15,000 per year. Without the need for those dreaded red-light cameras the savings will be even more.
Speaking of electricity, most of us remember those first few days after Hurricane Ike when the power was out and with it most of the traffic signals in town. Getting around town was a slow and tedious process, especially during rush hour. Since roundabouts have no lights, this problem need never occur again. Once the roads are cleared of storm debris, the roundabout is back in service regardless of whether there is electric power in the area. Roundabouts also enhance the ability of first responders to get through the intersection saving them precious time in an emergency. Someone's life may depend on their timeliness.
Improved Business Access
As was alluded to earlier, because the long queues are eliminated or at least reduced, business access in places where roundabouts have been installed is generally enhanced. In fact, one leg of a roundabout is often used for this very purpose. When it is challenging to get to and from a place of business, consumers will shop elsewhere. Drivers, like water, will naturally take the path of least resistance. Easy access to the area will make it more attractive to developers, new businesses, and shoppers. The land that has been set aside for the bypass could then be used for something else, like a new mall, for example. A new mall will do more to generate tax revenue than a new road. With two new roundabouts, this area could become a much more appealing location to establish new businesses in
Less Stressful Commute
At the end of the day though, most of us are simply frustrated with the maddening congestion caused when five busy roads converge through two closely spaced intersections. When these two roundabouts are installed the flow of traffic will be continuous, stops and delays will be virtually eliminated, and many of the frustrations and much of the stress of rush hour driving will diminish or disappear altogether. Time spent driving through the city will be a pleasure and we will be able to spend more quality time in the “pursuit of happiness.” In essence, the quality of life in