David Craig Discusses Roundabouts Local Approval Bill

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David Craig Discusses Roundabouts Local Approval Bill

Premiere Date: 
August 1, 2013

Rep. David Craig discusses a new bill that requires local approval for roundabouts.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

From schools to transportation and the traffic controllers known as roundabouts. A new bill would allow local governments to approve or disapprove of the construction of roundabouts, those circular wheels that have replaced traditional traffic lights in nearly 300 intersections around the state. But putting the brakes on roundabouts could cause a cheer among detractors, drivers who think navigating the free-flowing circles is confusing. Supporters including the Wisconsin DOT point to UW studies that show a more than 50% decline in serious accidents at intersections where roundabouts have replaced stop lights. The bill has bipartisan support. Co-sponsor, Representative David Craig, joins us in Milwaukee and thanks very much for doing so.

David Craig:

Thanks for having me on, Frederica.

Frederica Freyberg:

I know you and Senator Mary Lazich were specifically opposed to this roundabout that was proposed at Highway 164 and I-43 in your district, but based on public input elicited by the DOT, they never built that roundabout. So the question is why doesn't the agency's kind of public input mechanism negate the need for this legislation?

David Craig:

Yeah. I think the DOTt has done a responsible job of going out, collecting input from not only local officials, but the residents of the areas. But this DOT doesn't necessarily mean that the next DOT or subsequent DOT is going to be as responsible as well. Not only that, the DOT could just decide that these things are going to occur regardless of whether or not the population surrounding them wants it. That's why we need this type of stability to statutes, to make sure the locals have input on it.

Frederica Freyberg:

It seems like anyone you talk to has an opinion on these roundabouts. Do you personally not like roundabouts?

David Craig:

I think that there is a place for them, and there are places where they are right now that they don't work at all. So I think there's one, it's a county roundabout on Highway Y in the city of Muskego. It's kind of oddly placed unless you know the history of that intersection. There have been many very tragic accidents at that intersection. If you're an outsider, if you’re someone just driving in from Madison, you think it's oddly placed, but it serves a very good purpose there. However, the ones that you described at I-43 and 164, and actually the DOT in that situation was looking at having four within the stretch of about a quarter of a mile, right in a row on the approach and the exit of the freeway. And that's why I think when you're having major scale improvements made to a freeway intersection, you need to have a lot of input from the locals. They ultimately decided not to do that. I applaud that decision. But it's all the more reason to have local input, and have binding input in these situations.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, the Wisconsin DOT describes roundabouts as safer, more efficient and less expensive to build. In fact, we want to read you a statement that was given to us by the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Transportation, saying that they do have concerns about your proposed legislation. They say, “Unlike traditional traffic lights, roundabouts facilitate traffic flow and reduce backups. We're trying to increase safety. Roundabouts virtually eliminate T-bone and head-on accidents, which are most likely to kill or injure people. It's not in the taxpayers' interest to see a situation where individual communities could veto a roundabout and as a result we build a highway that's less safe and will not work as well.” What's your reaction to that?

David Craig:

I guess I would say two things. One, I would subscribe to the fact that they're cheaper to make if the DOT were engineering them to the size that they should be. I’ve seen situations, maybe not this DOT, but DOTs in the past, different administrations where roundabouts have been constructed and they've been undersized for the areas. I think a large component of that problem is the fact that many of the engineers might be in Madison or might be in Waukesha, engineering projects that they might never traverse themselves. I think when we have industrial parks, many industrial parks in the state of Wisconsin that thrive, that all have their niche types of businesses that might require larger tractor-trailers to go through, only the locals are the ones that know their businesses that well to know what kind of traffic is going through. The DOT will take a census on the traffic, but they're not necessarily going to know all the types of businesses that are going to be taking tractor-trailers through there. In fact, I've been contacted by an organization that represents businesses that move parcel homes on tractor-trailers and they sometimes have to move hundreds of miles out of their way to avoid a roundabout that their tractor-trailers cannot navigate around. It has a job impact as well.

Frederica Freyberg:

I know that the DOT does acknowledge that there are some roundabouts that have been built that, you know, weren't right or adequate for the kinds of uses that they're getting. I think namely as you say with these larger tractor-trailers. But would your legislation, would it either be an up or down on a roundabout or could the public input say, well, it would be okay, but we want it bigger, you know, that kind of thing.

David Craig:

I mean, I guess my legislation would certainly allow for give and take. There's nothing that says that they can't have a good working relationship with the DOT where there is a give and take, where the locals say, here, the roundabout that you have is totally undersized for the traffic. This is what we feel in consultation with our professional engineer, we think we need for this project. And then they can vote after that.

Frederica Freyberg:

The DOT acknowledges also that roundabouts are really hard to get used to and they in fact engender they say confusion, anxiety and even hostility. Now, is this the kind of thing you've heard from your constituents about roundabouts?

David Craig:

Overwhelmingly, all those adjectives and many more.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Representative David Craig, thank you very much for talking with us.

David Craig:

My pleasure, Frederica. Thank you. 


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