Roundabout work starting soon
After years of planning and design work, the Oregon Department of Transportation is finally ready to break ground on a new roundabout at the Tom McCall/Highway 126 intersection.
But before that work begins, ODOT are inviting the public to an open house session where it can provide information about the upcoming project and address any questions or concerns people might have about it.
"It is going to be really informal," said Abbey Driscoll, ODOT's community liaison for Region 4. "People can stop by for 10 to 15 minutes if they want, to get more information about the project. There is no formal presentation, and it is not a public meeting, so we are not taking formal comment."
The event is scheduled this Thursday, Jan. 25, from 4 to 6 p.m., at Crook County Library's Broughton Room. Driscoll will be in attendance as will members of ODOT's construction staff and Eric Klann and Scott Smith from the City of Prineville.
Both of them were involved with the program from the very beginning," Driscoll said of Klann and Smith. "All of us will be in the room and able to chat with folks and answer questions in a one-on-one setting."
The roundabout is the proposed upgrade to the Tom McCall Road intersection with Highway 126, which has grown much busier in recent years with the additions of the Facebook and Apple data centers as well as other industrial businesses in the area, on top of the standard travel between Prineville and the Deschutes County communities.
ODOT officials and city and county leaders considered multiple ways to safely move increased traffic through the intersection, including a traffic light, but determined the roundabout would keep traffic moving while preventing the possibility of high speed vehicle crashes.
The project has received criticism from some members of the public, particularly people concerned that it would hinder semi-truck traffic throughout the intersection. Consequently, ODOT hosted a roundabout rodeo in August 2016 at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center. Truck drivers and drivers of other large vehicles, including school buses, were invited to drive a scale version of the roundabout. Trucks ranged in length from 61 feet to 107 feet.
Drivers were then invited to offer critiques that ODOT would consider as the continued design of the roundabout. The input inspired such changes as an increased design width of the truck apron, and modification to the approach of the splitter islands. The roundabout will be built to accommodate trucks as long as 130 feet.
While ODOT has taken public comment on the roundabout during multiple local meetings, Driscoll said the upcoming open house was not scheduled in response to any remaining concerns or criticism.
"ODOT likes to hold open houses both during the design of the project — maybe once or twice — and then before construction," she said.
However, she did acknowledge that open house facilitators could "definitely help address some of those concerns that people might be having" or that the event could "serve as a refresher for the path that ODOT and the City of Prineville has been on the last seven years."
Driscoll said that initial work on the roundabout should begin toward the end of this month and pointed out that it will be built to the northeast of the existing intersection, eliminating traffic impact for the majority of the project.
"Most of the traffic impact will be when we tie the existing highway alignment into the new roundabout," she said. "In addition to that, most of the work will be done at night."
Work on the roundabout will continue through the majority of this year, with a completion date estimated on Dec. 1.