The Washington State Department of Transportation has gone public with its plans to bring a roundabout to the intersection of White Trail Road and State Route 28.
James Reynolds, project engineer, said a roundabout was the best bet to increase safety in an intersection that has a long history of accidents and close calls.
“Safety-wise, putting in a roundabout would reduce serious collisions up to 88 percent,” Reynolds said. “It lowers speeds as you go through the roundabout, it reduces any at-angle collisions, known as the t-bone collisions. As you go into a roundabout you gotta turn into the right a little bit, so you get more of a glancing blow.”
The roundabout will have a truck apron to facilitate the big rigs’ transiting around it. When asked whether a stoplight would be a better option for that intersection, Reynolds was adamant. “Absolutely not. No.
“With a roundabout you’re going to be moving, you can get more traffic through than you would if you had a signal. At 60 mph with a signal, there’s nothing physically there to stop somebody from running a signal. You still see collisions when a signal, so they don’t have as great a safety reduction (rate) as a roundabout. Not even close.”
The work is scheduled to begin by this fall, around September. There’s a chance it could be earlier but the hope is to have it done before the first snowfalls of the 2022-23 winter season.
“If we think we are going to have issues, we could potentially push it to the spring of ‘23 and be done by hopefully June of ‘23,” he said.
Asked what had taken so long before finally coming up with a solution for an intersection with a grim history of close calls and crashes, Reynolds said that that’s the way these projects work, according to priorities set by others. In this case, the WSDOT matched the federal grant money received by a Grant County entity.
“The grant made it possible,” Reynolds said.
In addition, there are other criteria at play, Reynolds said.
“Unfortunately, the way things work, you gotta see the collisions,” he said. “And in this one, we could see the collisions but not as many fatal collisions as other intersections. It’s the way we prioritize projects. It was always on the list, but lower on the list as some of the other ones that we have done.”
He added, “It’s been a long time coming and it’s going to be a great project. I hope the public realizes that. White Trail is a very busy road and that intersection gets pretty crazy at times, knowing myself having traveled it, so I’m looking forward to this project myself.”
In an email dated Jan. 11, he further elaborated, “Intersection safety projects are prioritized throughout the state based on the collision history at an intersection. Priority is based on the amount, type and severity of the collision seen at the intersection,” Reynolds wrote.
Moreover, he added, SR 28 and Whitetrail Road in the past had not prioritized high enough in comparison to other statewide needs to receive funding.
Grant County, local legislators and County Commissioners recognized a need for improvements at this intersection now and moved forward with applying for a safety grant that WSDOT was in full support of, Reynolds wrote.