By Moses Leos III
Discussions on a proposed roundabout have come full circle, with the Kyle council again looking at the option for the FM 1626/Kohler’s Crossing intersection.
The issue was discussed in 2014, with public comment mostly against the idea.
Now that it’s back, finding a way to finance the construction becomes the task for city officials. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) needs options by August.
Kyle Mayor Todd Webster said he doesn’t want to put the burden on taxpayers.
“We won’t move forward with a proposal that doesn’t include a financing mechanism that says, ‘this is how we’re paying for it and it’s not going to be on the taxpayer’s dime.”
The Kyle City Council directed staff to again study a roundabout at the intersection. Council member Shane Arabie brought up the item after discovering the city had an August deadline from TxDOT.
TxDOT officials said that intersection warrants some kind of traffic control device and wants a resolution from the city regarding options.
Arabie was concerned that lack of input would allow TxDOT to implement whatever traffic control device it wants.
“I wanted to bring this in front of council one more time, before we don’t have an opinion on it,” Arabie said.
Arabie advocated for a roundabout, saying it would ease traffic flow.
He said he “hasn’t met a person” prior to Tuesday’s meeting with a negative roundabout opinion.
Mirroring Arabie’s support were Kyle residents Mike Fulton, Dan Ryan and Mike Wilson.
Fulton said, “Roundabouts are a truly a wonderful thing. Everyone can figure out a traffic circle. It’s just a circle.”
Ryan supported the roundabout, but said the city must get the design right. Wilson, who provided statistics on safety, said saving lives is priority.
“We may have drivers that have fender-benders. They have them anyway. I’d rather have a fender-bender than a fatality,” he said.
Not all liked the idea. One resident said he would opt for a traffic signal rather than a roundabout.
“A roundabout isn’t needed at this time, there isn’t enough traffic,” he said. “With the speed on that road there, it isn’t going to work out.”
Resident Michele Christie, who grew up around roundabouts in New Jersey, hates them, adding that accessing roundabouts was “nightmarish.”
“No matter how much you preach about it, when we’re behind the wheel, and there’s a guy behind you, honking because he want’s to go, there’s lots of traffic in (a roundabout) and you can’t get in, I’ve lived it, I know,” Christie said.
Webster said he knows the issue pushes buttons, but statistics support the idea.
“People are convinced that this is a bad idea. Every single piece of research and evidence I’ve seen says otherwise,” Webster said. “Nothing based on evidence says it’s (a light) better than a roundabout.”
Financing a roundabout
Assistant City Manager James Earp’s presentation supports the safety of a modern roundabout.
Statistics show a modern roundabout reduces accidents at intersections by 35 percent. He said intersections with a roundabout saw a 76 percent drop in the severity of accidents, and a 90 percent reduction in fatalities.
The roundabout allows for approaching traffic to slow down, he said. It also improves the efficiency at intersections, doubling the number of vehicles passing through per hour, adding a roundabout could accommodate 18-wheelers, bicycles and pedestrian traffic.
TxDOT had budgeted $350,000 for a one-lane roundabout in 2013. Improvements to accommodate the higher traffic flow means a two-lane roundabout is needed, costing approximately $750,000.
TxDOT informed the city it can’t fund the full amount for a two-lane roundabout.
The city must find alternate options to pay for the roundabout, such as working with potential commercial developers.
Peter French, Director of Operations of Plum Creek Developers, said that PCD could assist the city, but would opt for future TxDOT reimbursment.
Through that mechanism, the state reimburses a portion of the project cost over time by paying for each vehicle driving on a new road.
Other options could include a commercial public improvement district (PID).
Webster said the time is now to make a decision, as any inaction would be a “passive decision.” With the possibility of a split vote on a resolution, Webster was unsure whether TxDOT would get a clear view of Kyle’s intentions.
“It’s fish or cut bait time. We have to make a decision,” he said. “I think the way we’re trying to work this, the city won’t be burdened with any of the cost.”