That Spring Hill traffic oval …

Rounding the Spring Hill oval: Should it stay or go?

Rounding the Spring Hill oval: Should it stay or go?

There's no end to the fascination we seem to have with traffic roundabouts, either for or against. Take, for example, that little traffic circle -- an oval, actually -- on Albany's Spring Hill Drive at Quarry Road.

The thing was put in to handle detour traffic during the North Albany Road project. Because it is far too small to function as a true roundabout, Benton County planned to have it removed once it was no longer needed. But last week, the Albany City Council asked the Benton Board of Commissioners to keep it in place, and the county board agreed.

Now someone in North Albany has started a petition asking both the city and county to get rid of it. Why keep it, they are asking, when it doesn't meet roundabout standards and is no longer needed because that intersection no longer has unusually heavy traffic?

Councilman Floyd Collins has two sensible reasons: It slows southbound traffic, which would sometimes rip along that residential part of Spring Hill at 60 mph. And keeping it in place saves the $42,000 it would cost to restore the intersection to its previous configuration.

But here's the thing: At that joint council-commissioners meeting on Aug. 18 in Corvallis, Benton Public Works pledged to consider expanding the roundabout to proper size, which would require buying additional right of way. I wondered what the expansion would cost. Josh Wheeler, the county public works director, says no estimate of the cost has been made. But I've heard that $200,000 would not be an unreasonable amount for such a project.

So the question is: Why would Benton County consider spending that kind of money from its strapped road budget for a project that, from a traffic-volume standpoint, is unnecessary? And in the meantime, why hang on to a road feature that, because of its substandard size, probably makes collisions more likely rather than less? (hh)

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