Roundabout the way to go?

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @DeRonTalley

For about the last year, the City of Gonzales and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development have been looking at ways to relieve traffic along the La. 30 corridor, which runs from La. 44 at Burnside to Ashland Road.

Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux said in an interview with the Weekly Citizen he approached DOTD and told them there was a problem on La. 30 and, “I need relief as far as traffic control, we need to move traffic in a quicker and safer manner.”

Gonzales’ major traffic buildup comes in the early morning and in the evenings when the plant industry workers are commuting to and from work.

Mayor Arceneaux said the DOTD initially informed the city the federal government had money that could be allocated to help relieve the traffic, but first a study needed to be done to see what would be the best fit.

After the first study, it was recommended to do the roundabouts. Over the past few years, DOTD has constructed roundabouts across Louisiana in an effort to increase safety and traffic flow at select locations.

According to the DOTD, roundabouts are one-way, circular intersections designed to improve safety and efficiency for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. In a roundabout, traffic flows through a center island counterclockwise. A roundabout redirects some of the conflicting traffic, such as left turns, which cause crashes at traditional intersections. This is because drivers enter and exit the roundabout through a series of right-hand turns.

“A well-designed roundabout can improve safety, operations and aesthetics of an intersection,” according to the DOTD. “Greater safety is achieved primarily by slower speeds and the elimination of more severe crashes and operation is improved by smooth-flowing traffic with less stop-and-go than a signalized intersection. Aesthetics are enhanced by the opportunity for more landscaping and less pavement.”

Mayor Arceneaux said after the initial study found that roundabouts would be the best option to relieve traffic along La. 30, a public hearing was held and it was learned there some businesses didn’t agree with the roundabout idea.

“But that’s okay because that’s what the public hearing is about,” Mayor Arceneaux said. “One of the businesses had its own study done but DOTD said it wouldn’t work because it wasn’t under the federal system so federal monies couldn’t be used for the project if that study was used.”

So now a third study is being done, and is being paid for by the state. But Mayor Arceneaux said the delays have caused the federal money that was available decrease from $13 million to $8.6 million.

“I have to take the money to get it done,” Mayor Arceneaux said. “Everybody agreed we have a problem at La. 30 but not everybody agreed the roundabout is the way to go.”

“We don’t have a final on last study yet, but what they showed us that day was that the roundabouts looks like the best bet,” Mayor Arceneaux said. “But here is what was said, ‘whatever the outcome is we have to go with it because we’ve taken this long and we don’t want the money to go away because we’ve been reduced already, so it’s not a done deal.’”

“But again, I don’t make the final call. That’s a state highway,” Mayor Arceneaux said. “The DOTD is good to me and give us every bit of information they can. It is something we’ve been looking at for quite some time now and we need to relieve that traffic no doubt about it.”

According to Dustin Annison, Public Information Officer for the DOTD, the roundabout project on La. 30 near Tanger is currently on hold pending the results of a study the DOTD is doing to identify long-term improvements to the corridor.

“The feasibility study for the long-term improvements should finish in approximately six months and will determine what measures are needed to improve traffic flow on La. 30 between La. 3251 (Ashland Road) and La. 44,” Annison said. “It will look at improvements that can be made at intersections along the corridor, as well as improvements to the corridor itself.”

Annison said the study would help the DOTD to develop a preliminary purpose and need for the project, examine the technical feasibility of constructing improvements, Conduct a preliminary scan to identify potential environmental impacts, and determine preliminary project scope and cost.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says roundabouts save lives by reducing fatalities by up to 90 percent, reducing injury crashes up to 76 percent, reducing pedestrian crashes up to 30 percent to 40 percent, and creating up to 75 percent fewer conflict points than a four-way intersection.

“Conflict points are any point where the paths of two through or turning vehicles diverge, merge or cross,” according to the FHWA.

Installing roundabouts could also help save Gonzales money by reducing road electricity and maintenance costs by an average of $5,000 per year, eliminating the costs to install and repair signal equipment, and providing a 25-year service life when compared to the ten-year service life of signal equipment.

“Everybody agreed we have a problem at La. 30 but not everybody agreed the roundabout is the way to go.”