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Roundabout plan back on Janesville City Council agenda

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Marcia Nelesen
September 8, 2012

— Monday will be another chapter for the controversial roundabout plan at Wuthering Hills Drive and Milwaukee Street.

The intersection was the site of a fatal crash in 2007, and several councils have since flip-flopped on whether to install a roundabout.

It will be debated again by the Janesville City Council on Monday night.

The last vote was December 2011, when the council defeated the roundabout on a 3-3 vote.

Council members who voted then against the roundabout cited the cost, which today is estimated at $635,000. Residents told the council the intersection is safer since the city in 2010 narrowed the number of lanes to improve safety and visibility at a bike crossing west of the intersection.

One accident has been reported since the modifications.

City staff members, who favor the roundabout for safety reasons, said two years is not enough time to gauge safety risks.

The council added three new members in April, and members Sam Liebert and Jim Farrell have asked the council to reconsider the issue.

Farrell said Friday that after much research he has decided not to vote in favor of a roundabout.

Farrell might have been the swing vote.

Deb Dongarra-Adams is the only remaining council member who last year voted against the roundabout. New members Matt Kealy and DuWayne Severson have tended to vote on the conservative side when it comes to spending.

Liebert, Kathy Voskuil and Russ Steeber are still seated, and all three favored the roundabout in 2011.

According to new figures, the roundabout would cost the city about $40,000 less because staff found about $60,000 more in federal aid. The project went up in cost about $20,000.

Liebert asked that the matter be put back on the agenda, and that’s when city staff investigated and found more funding available, City Manager Eric Levitt said.

Considering that $40,000, the total cost for the city would be $179,000.

If the council rejects the roundabout Monday, the city would remain on the hook for $105,000. That’s because the city would owe the state $78,000 for designing the roundabout, even if it’s not built, and the city must resurface the street at a cost of $27,000.

Farrell said he offered to co-sponsor the item because he was open to bringing it forward for discussion. Upon further research, he said he cannot support it.

Farrell has read recent statistics about traffic accidents in Madison that indicate three of the top five accident sites are at roundabouts, he said.

Farrell said he also spoke to a resident who lives near the intersection and was at the intersection the day of the fatality.

“She feels absolutely it would not be a good idea to put it (the roundabout) in,” Farrell said.

He talked to a real estate agent who said home values at the intersection would fall.

“Going down to two lanes has solved the problem,” Farrell said. “There haven’t been any accidents over the last couple of years. That indicated to me the problem has been fixed at this point.”

Even though the city would pay less, “it’s still taxpayer money,” Farrell said.

The federal money remains available because the council in 2011 tied on a vote to build the roundabout but also tied on a vote to do nothing at the intersection. That put the project in limbo, Farrell said.

Monday might be the night to decide one way or the other, Farrell said.



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