Manhattan Headed In Circles With Third Street Roundabout


By Jon A. Brake

It is understandable...If you continue telling people that you have a problem and there is only one solution, after a time they will believe it.

The problem is at Third Street and Bluemont Ave. The intersection is only a few hundred feet from the Bluemont Ave and Tuttle Creek Blvd. intersection. Cars and trucks are held at the Tuttle Creek Blvd. intersection by a long traffic light. Lights at the two intersections are not synchronized and motorist will block the Third Street intersection. Traffic will sometimes backup on Bluemont to Fifth Street in the right-hand lane.

The City of Manhattan wants to cutoff Third Street with a raised median down the center of Bluemont Avenue. This would mean no through traffic on Third Street and no left turns. All of that adds up to no business could survive on Third Street. The City staff has the idea that cars and trucks need to turn on Fourth Street and than "filter" down to Third.

Cars and truck traffic would be thrown onto old residential streets to make their way to the business on Third. Everyone, including City staff, knows it will not work. But this is the area the City had identified for redevelopment that was rejected by the County Commission after strong lobbing by the Third Street businesses.

Eliminate traffic on Third; and you eliminate businesses. Eliminate businesses and you eliminate resistance to redevelopment.

Faced with a closed Third Street, business owners have hired HWS Consulting Group, Inc. to develop a different plan. HWS are the people who designed the roundabouts at Gary Ave. and Candlewood Dr. They also designed the roundabout on Kimball Ave. at the entrance to Colbert Hill Golf Course.

In is not a surprise that HWS found that a roundabout would be the answer to the Third and Bluemont problems. The surprise is they found that we also need a roundabout at Bluemont and Tuttle Creek Blvd. The two roundabouts would be only a few feet apart.

An article in the January 18, 2002 Wall Street Journal by Rick Brooks said this about a new Clearwater, Fla. roundabout: "It seemed like a good idea at the time. The $8 million Clearwater roundabout would replace a dangerous tangle of streets and intersections often choked with beach-bound traffic. It would create an artistic entry point for visitors."

"But since opening in December 1999 the roundabout has scared the wits out of drivers trying to navigate it. No one knows which cars are supposed to have the right-of-way. Some discombobulated motorists hug the right shoulder, making it hard for other cars to exit and causing backups at side streets."

Brooks also writes: "Itís a similar story elsewhere. As traffic planners across the U.S. rip out stop signs to install roundabouts that can slow aggressive drivers, some cities are discovering that these so-called "traffic-calming devices" do exactly the opposite. Some drivers go the wrong way, figuring itís OK to turn left into the Roundabout if you plan to hop off at the first side street. Trucks flatten curbs and landscaping. In some places, accident rates have surged after the installation of roundabouts, causing them to be razed in favor of old-fashioned traffic lights or stop signs."

Editorís Note To Third Street Business: The citizens of Manhattan are on your side. They do not want Third Street blocked and they do not want your business to suffer but do not push a roundabout as a solution.

What is the difference if you lose business because the City blocks Third Street or you lose business because your customers avoid the roundabouts by going someplace else? In both cases you lose.

There is another answer, find it.