Safety is the top concern weighing on Brookfield officials' minds in determining the fate of the North Avenue and Brookfield Road reconstruction. Aldermen are divided, however, on whether a roundabout is necessarily the answer for the intersection.
The Common Council on Tuesday voted 8-6 to request that Waukesha County reconstruct the intersection with a roundabout, as opposed to a traffic signal, following extensive debate and consideration of resident input.
Those voting against the measure included District 3 aldermen Jeff McCarthy and Ron Balzer, District 4 Alderman Mark Nelson, District 5 Alderman Scott Berg and District 7 alderwomen Renee Lowerr and Lisa Mellone.
Under a separate resolution, aldermen also will request that the county install sidewalk on the west side of Brookfield Road from North Avenue north to Quail Hollow Drive as part of the reconstruction, and that the county acquire right of way for possible future construction of a sidewalk on the west side of Brookfield Road from the intersection south to Still Point Trail, emphasizing that that portion not be installed at this time, as it is not consistent with the city's capital improvement plan. District 6 aldermen Christopher Blackburn and Jerry Mellone voted against this resolution.
Safety a prime factor
Construction of a roundabout at Brookfield Road and North Avenue, currently a four-way stop intersection, is scheduled for 2013 and is expected to cost about $640,000, with Waukesha County fully funding the project. Brookfield would be responsible for covering the cost of extending the sidewalk and acquiring right of way for a potential future sidewalk, at an estimated cost of about $20,000.
The proposed design reflects a single-lane roundabout with sidewalks, marked crosswalks and "yield to pedestrian" signs throughout the intersection, said Craig Donze, design project manager with One Source Consulting. The design would be similar to that of the intersection of North Avenue and Barker Road, which was reconstructed about three years ago.
Based on a traffic study conducted by Waukesha County, 26 reportable crashes occurred at the intersection between 2009 and 2011, 17 of which resulted in property damage only and one of which resulted in incapacitating injury.
From a safety standpoint, roundabouts have been shown to enhance vehicular and pedestrian safety, and to significantly reduce the chance of pedestrian fatalities at an intersection, Donze explained.
"Operating speeds out here are 40 miles an hour-plus, and (drivers) come screeching into a stop at the stop sign today," Donze said. "If there was a pedestrian strike at 40 miles an hour, there's an 80 percent chance that that's going to result in a fatality. With a roundabout, the operating speeds will be 18 to 20 miles an hour; the chance of a pedestrian fatality in the unfortunate incident of a pedestrian strike is reduced to 17 percent."
The statistics resonated with the aldermen supporting construction of a roundabout.
"Because of the fact that statistics show all crashes drop by 39 percent when you have a roundabout ... I think roundabouts, overall, are more safe for pedestrians," District 5 Alderman Gary Mahkorn said.
Schools complicate issue
Aldermen who did not support the resolution based their opposition mainly on the belief that a roundabout is not a good fit at this particular intersection.
"The sticking point for me, primarily, is the proximity to the schools, to the city dump - with people hauling trailers and trying to maneuver through that roundabout - and the seniors going to the hospital," Alderwoman Lisa Mellone said. "Overall I would support roundabouts, but the uniqueness of this particular location and the proximity to those facilities around it is causing me to pause and lean toward a stoplight."
Alderman Jeff McCarthy agreed, noting that it is not reasonable to have the same expectations of juvenile pedestrians as one might have of an adult.
"With the unique circumstance of it being close to these schools, and being a parent of children that go to elementary school, I don't see it possible for me to support a roundabout at this intersection," McCarthy said.
Neighbors who weighed in on the issue prior to council discussion also expressed concerns about pedestrian safety, particularly for children who live or attend schools in the area, in addition to how the design might impact the natural landscape of the area.
"While a roundabout might be more intrusive ... it provides a lot more value to the community, both from a public safety perspective as well as a convenience perspective," said Tim Jones, who lives in the area with his wife and their two young children.
"Beyond that, as it relates to sidewalks and other things, the other primary concern that we have in our neighborhood is (preserving) a lot of the large canopy trees that add a lot of the character to our neighborhood."
The input from the Common Council is advisory only, with Waukesha County ultimately responsible for final project decisions.
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