Woodland council set to hear roundabout concerns

Truck line owner says its too small for her trucks

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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The Woodland City Council will hold a special meeting Monday to discuss a roundabout project involving Schurman Way and Dike Road that has at least one local truck line owner screaming foul.

The council called for the meeting after residents questioned whether the city’s administration ignored recommendations made by the Washington State Department of Transportation on the roundabout’s size. Truckers are having problems turning on the roundabout, which sits near the city’s industrial area, said Darlene Johnson, owner of Woodland Truck Line.

The Schurman Way and Dike Road roundabout project, which cost the city around $1.8 million, is designed to make it easier for vehicles to access the city’s industrial area. It’s also in close proximity to the city’s Walmart.

City officials said they followed WSDOT’s recommendations and contended the roundabout meets truckers’ needs. There are no current plans to expand the roundabout’s size (130 feet in diameter), said Ken Alexander, Woodland’s interim public works director.

“It does meet the specifications of everybody … except some of the business owners who have oversized tractors and have difficulty negotiating them,” Woodland Mayor Chuck Blum said. He added larger trucks often can carry a heavier load and thus earn more money for their owners.

Johnson has complained that the roundabout’s size forces her trucks to drive on the sidewalk. The city’s two other roundabouts, which are off Interstate 5, are 140 in diameter.

“We won’t be able to come through that interchange,” Johnson said, noting her trucks coming from Longview would have to take a different route that would cost her business time, and most importantly, money. “For them to add a cost burden to us is unacceptable.”

WSDOT engineer David Bellinger sent a letter last April to then-Woodland public works director Steve Branz with several suggestions, one of which remarked how three roundabouts having the same diameter would be beneficial for the city. Bellinger’s comments were a “peer review,” not requirements, WSDOT spokeswoman Abbi Russell said, noting the state agency does not have any oversight on the project.

Since Bellinger made his recommendations, WSDOT’s Brian Walsh notified the city that 130 feet is “acceptable,” Alexander said.

Blum indicated earlier this week that the city would be willing to spend a “few extra dollars” to widen the roundabout if it made business owners happy. That was before Alexander rode with Johnson’s husband Friday in one of the couple’s trucks.

The vehicle had some issues negotiating the roundabout, Alexander said, but he pointed out their vehicles were larger than most trucks that would use the roundabout. Other trucks the city observed had no problems with the roundabout.

Johnson explained her trucks are generally 72 to 75 feet from the steering axle to the rear axle, a distance allowed by Washington to help truckers carry heavier loads. The way Johnson sees it, the city should have worked more with her business to accommodate her trucks.

“We were here first,” she said, comparing her trucks to the roundabout. “They shouldn’t screw it up.”

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; www.facebook.com/raylegend; ray.legendre@columbian.com.