Friday, July 19, 2024

Letters to the editor July 2

| July 2, 2024 12:00 AM

Flawed roundabout

I usually consider it a waste of time to complain about a completed project but the roundabout on U.S. 2 west of Kalispell is so terrible I need to speak up. 

In my opinion, a needless and heartbreaking death occurred this spring due to the poor design of the roundabout. When the highway department was proposing this roundabout I wasn’t too concerned because I traveled on one in Idaho on Highway 54 between Athol and Farragut State Park. I was very impressed with that design and figured this was what was being used. 

I did wonder why the information on the website for the Department of Transportation prior to construction didn’t show a diagram of what the US. 2 roundabout would look like and instead showed a video of a semi driving between pylons at the fairgrounds. It seems like even then they knew it was a poor design. 

The major flaw in the roundabout is that it is designed for an intersection where there is an equivalent amount of traffic coming from all directions at much slower speeds. Instead, this is on a major highway dissecting side roads. The speed limit on the highway is 60 mph and then goes into the roundabout with a recommended speed of 15 mph. 

Eastbound traffic also has to contend with dropping down a slight hill that creates a blind spot. The unnecessary curve right before entering the actual roundabout is a zinger and complicates getting around it. 

I travel this section of the highway only occasionally and have seen accidents I believe were directly caused by the roundabout. Adding winter weather to the poor design makes it even more dangerous. How many others accidents have people who travel this daily seen? Semis and other trailered vehicles experience their own unique issues.

This roundabout was so poorly designed it was and is a recipe for disaster. Yet, in a report to the Kalispell City Council last fall by the highway department the reasons listed for accidents occurring there was due to excessive speed instead of flawed design. Simply blaming it on driver error means the highway department is not going to look at problems caused by their design. 

What to do now? First the Department of Transportation should never put such a flawed design on any other major highway. For the current roundabout there needs to be adjustments made to the sharp turns going into the roundabout, starting with the eastbound lane. Flashing lights are needed to warn of the dangerous area. Studies need to be done on how to prevent the bottleneck to highway traffic. 

In a heartfelt plea to the Department of Transportation, please admit your mistake and make adjustments to correct it. Look at designs in other states. Consult with experts. Use computer simulation to identify problems before making changes to the highways. We should expect no less as drivers who have to drive this road and taxpayers who are funding it before more fatalities occur.

 — Andrea Davidson, Kalispell