Byron plans for roundabout

January 5, 2019

BYRON — Byron city officials plan to build a roundabout at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Seventh Street Northeast during the 2019 construction season.

When expanded about 15 years ago, 10th Avenue Northeast was used mostly by traffic going to the Somerby Golf Community and homes on the west side of the road. At the intersection with Seventh Street, traffic on the lightly traveled avenue was controlled with stop signs.

But in recent years, the addition of several subdivisions on the east side of 10th Avenue and the construction of a primary school have greatly increased the amount of traffic passing through the intersection.

Students from those subdivisions who walk to school have difficulty crossing 10th Avenue to get to both the intermediate and primary schools.

“After some discussion, and knowing how busy that intersection is, we figured something should be done,” council member Matt Brekke said.

Mike Dougherty, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said there are several advantages to using roundabouts to control intersections.

“Roundabouts force drivers to slow down as they prepare to enter the roundabout. They check the pedestrian crossing (which provides a single lane crossing with a safety island in the middle for pedestrians and bikes) and then they check the traffic to their left as they decide when to enter, yielding to traffic that’s already in the roundabout. A secondary benefit is better traffic flow, because you don’t need to wait when there is no traffic, you just slow and go.”

The city annexed Seventh Street Northeast from the county in 2016. It was formerly County Road 134.

The road qualifies for Minnesota State Aid for Local Transportation funding, which will be used to build the roundabout, City Administrator Mary Blair-Hoeft said.

During their December meeting, council members voted unanimously to hire city engineers WHKS to provide “design and bid engineering services” for the project. The estimated cost for the roundabout is $850,000.

Byron also has a roundabout at Frontage Road and 10th Avenue Northeast. That roundabout was completed in 2013.

There have been only two minor crashes at that roundabout, Olmsted County Sheriff’s Deputy Jay Clemens said, and both occurred on the same November day, “when road conditions were poor — snowing, blowing snow, and icy.”

A 2017 study by the state Department of Transportation found that roundabouts reduce the fatal crash rate at intersections by 86 percent and the serious injury crash rate by 83 percent.

“I know roundabouts are a love/hate solution, but with the positive feedback from the one on the Frontage Road and 10th, we went with that option,” Brekke said. “I think the growth of Byron will continue north and east, so this is a smart, safe project we need to do to limit accidents and traffic headaches.”

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