By Shawn Byrne
Those who like roundabouts are going to get spoiled.
Two Arizona Department of Transportation projects along U.S. 93 that began in 2005 are expected to break ground in 2020, which means the addition of five roundabouts between SR 89 and the downtown roundabout.
“We will be adding – and I’m sure many of you love them – five new roundabouts,” ADOT Northwest Assistant District Engineer Andrew Roth, told the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Institute on Oct. 29. “The first project should be going out to bid at the first of the year.”
The five new roundabouts will be constructed at SR 89, Scenic Loop, Vulture Mine Road, Cope Road and Rincon Road. The first project, titled Project A, is the zone from SR 89 and Wickenburg Ranch Way. The Wickenburg Ranch developer has funded this portion at $9 million.
ADOT is working toward 95 percent completion of plans, including Project B that is south of Wickenburg Ranch Way to the Tegner Street roundabout.
“The developer portion of the project plans is fairly well completed and is just waiting to go to bid,” Roth said. “We’re thinking that will be the first of the year, hopefully. A lot of that has to do with right-of-way.”
ADOT has to purchase the land for rights-of-way. All the land has been assessed, and the next step is for ADOT to send offer letters to those owners. If the owners readily accept, then the projects will move forward. If the owners and ADOT can’t agree on prices, then the process moves to the courts and the projects could be delayed.
When the combined $50 million projects are completed, U.S. 93 will be two lanes in each direction and separated by a raised median. Most of the project will have 10-foot shoulders on the outside and 4-foot shoulders on the inside.
The completed project will have frontage road access to the 93, replacing the direct accesses that currently line the highway.
“If we can get everybody on a frontage road to a roundabout and a fixed intersection as opposed to a lot of direct accesses, it makes for a safer facility for everybody,” Roth said.
The engineer pointed out that though ADOT hears that roundabouts are more dangerous than signals, it doesn’t make it true.
“You may have more accident, but those accidents, when you look at the severity index of the accidents, you only have property damage accidents,” Roth said. “Cars get banged up a little.”
Crashes in signal intersections when, for instance, someone races through a red light result in T-bone accidents and fatalities.
“In roundabouts, there is a 75 to 90 percent reduction in fatality and serious injury accidents,” Roth said. “Just by putting in roundabouts instead of signals. This is one of the big reasons in this district why we promote roundabouts.”
Residents of Wickenburg Ranch have spoken about leaving the Ranch to drive into town and the difficulty of getting to the other side of that roundabout to head south. ADOT says problems like this will helped by the additional roundabouts.
“The whole purpose of the roundabouts will be to slow the traffic down,” said Deborah Miller, ADOT community relations project manager. “The speed limit will drop down, and additionally between each roundabout, a semi, even if its trailer is empty, won’t have the ability to get back up to 65 mph. It will slow down the truck traffic all the way from the 89 intersection all the way through town.”
Project B also includes work on the Tegner roundabout. ADOT wants to make improvements on the curvature around the island to make it easier for some of the people to get around the roundabout.
Roth estimated work will begin on Project A in the spring or summer of 2020, and work on Project B could begin in the fall. Work on the two projects will at some point be going on concurrently.