By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
EDMONDS — Ilana Evstatieva says she hates driving through the intersection at Five Corners.
“It’s horrible,” said Evstatieva, a receptionist at Vision Quest Sport and Fitness on the northwest corner of the five-way intersection. “Everyone waits, and then everyone goes at the same time.”
While others say it’s not so bad, city of Edmonds officials agree with Evstatieva and are hoping to get federal grant money to build a $2.5 million roundabout at the intersection, where a small business district is located.
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for 7 tonight at the Public Safety Complex, 250 Fifth Ave. N. The City Council is considering putting the roundabout on a long-term project list. This would be the city’s first true roundabout; the traffic circle on Main Street in downtown Edmonds is regulated by stop signs.
The crossing is located between Highway 99 and downtown Edmonds. Main Street, 212th Street SW, Bowdoin Way and 84th Avenue W. converge at the location. Traffic is controlled by stop signs.
Proponents of the roundabout at Five Corners, including the city, say the intersection is congested between 4 and 6 p.m.
Billie Swengel, who with her husband Ron owns College Place Optical Center on the northeast corner of the intersection, says that’s not been her experience.
“I usually leave here around 4:30 (p.m.) and I never have to wait,” she said.
City figures differ. They say wait times between 4 and 6 p.m. weekdays in 2009 at the intersection reached as high as two minutes. If nothing is done, that figure is expected to climb to nearly 3 minutes by 2015 and nearly 3½ minutes by 2025.
Installing signals at the intersection would cut those figures to 1 minute in 2015 and to slightly under 2 minutes by 2025, according to the city. A roundabout, however, would cut those peak wait times even more dramatically, to 17 seconds in 2015 and 42 seconds in 2025.
With a roundabout, cars or trucks drive around a raised central island instead of going straight through or turning at a right angle.
The traffic-control devices have been widely used overseas for decades but only recently in the United States. According to city figures, 205 roundabouts have been built statewide since 1997 and more than 3,000 nationwide.
Studies show roundabouts cut down on the severity and frequency of accidents, keep traffic flowing, reduce air pollution, save gasoline and are easier and cheaper to maintain compared to traffic signals.
Collisions that occur in roundabouts tend to be fender-benders rather than potentially high-speed, head-on or broadside smash-ups, experts say.
Roundabouts have their critics. Accidents, usually minor, can increase when a roundabout is first installed, primarily because drivers don’t know what to do.
Of course, that’s also the problem with the current configuration at Five Corners, city officials say. Fender-benders and even more near-misses occur because drivers have trouble deciding whose turn it is to go. Eight accidents have occurred at the intersection in the past three years, according to the city.
It’s a danger to pedestrians as well, city transportation engineer Bertrand Hauss said. The intersection is close to Chase Lake Elementary School and Edmonds-Woodway High School.
The streets at the intersection are 80 feet wide, creating a long walk for pedestrians, Hauss said. If the roundabout is built, wedge-shaped islands will be built in the middle of each street, breaking up the walking distance.
The city has received $463,000 in federal grant money to date for design and property acquisition, Hauss said. The city will only have to buy small slivers of land on each corner, he said. The city has put up $63,000 of its own money so far.
City officials plan to apply for the construction grant next spring, hope to receive the funds in 2013, and build the roundabout that summer, he said.
Ron Swengel said if the roundabout is built, the adjustment period could be tough for some.
“I think that for some of the older people in Edmonds, change is difficult,” he said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.