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Aug. 10, 2022

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Ridgefield to get 6th roundabout as city eyes safety, efficiency

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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Cars circle the roundabout at Pioneer Street and North 35th Avenue in Ridgefield on Tuesday.
Cars circle the roundabout at Pioneer Street and North 35th Avenue in Ridgefield on Tuesday. (Photos by Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Another roundabout is coming to Ridgefield later this year, part of a trend over the past couple of decades that is expected to continue.

The new roundabout will be at the intersection of South Royle Road and South Wells Drive. Ridgefield has five of them, and two more are in the design phase.

Roundabouts have been sprouting around the city since 2007, when the first one was built at Royle Road and Pioneer Street. The ones under design will be located at Pioneer Street and Union Ridge Parkway and the intersection of Pioneer Street and 51st Avenue.

The city’s transportation plan also includes three intersection improvements that could include roundabouts — North Royle Road and North 10th Street, North Royle Road and North 20th Street and North 85th Avenue and South Union Ridge Parkway.

At an increasing rate, cities across the U.S. are installing roundabouts, which historically have been more prevalent in western European countries. Drivers across the country in recent years have needed to learn how to navigate them.

About 80 percent of Oregon and Washington drivers are “extremely” or “very” confident when approaching a roundabout, but only a quarter of them have the same confidence about other drivers, according to a 2019 survey from PEMCO Insurance. More than half of respondents supported roundabouts over traditional four-way stops.

Roundabouts allow for fewer points where vehicles cross paths, less waiting time, fewer crashes and lower maintenance costs, Ridgefield Public Works Director Bryan Kast said.

Studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Federal Highway Administration have shown a 37 percent reduction in overall crashes, 75 percent reduction in crashes with injuries, 90 percent reduction in crashes with fatalities and 40 percent reduction in crashes involving pedestrians.

The city’s two most recent roundabouts cost about $2 million each to build, Kast said. By comparison, a signalized intersection at South Hillhurst and South Royle roads cost about $500,000 to build in 2018, coupled with $50,000 in annual maintenance costs.

“We do not currently have data on roundabout specific maintenance costs, however the primary maintenance for roundabouts is landscaping work,” Kast said.

On that note, the city also plans to spruce up the roundabout at Pioneer Street and North 35th Avenue, which was installed in 2017.

City officials recently asked residents for suggestions to improve the roundabout’s aesthetics — like the one at Pioneer Street and South 56th Place that contains a small vineyard.

Respondents indicated a desire for landscaping that reflects the local environment or serves as a landmark for the city.

“I think the roundabouts should reflect and make a statement about Ridgefield,” former City Councilor Darren Wertz said. “Design should be clean, clear and not take much maintenance.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter

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