Residents concerned about roundabout plan
State slates meeting for Wednesday
January 25, 2024
COLFAX — Residents say they are apprehensive about a plan by the state Department of Transportation build a roundabout at the U.S. Highway 195 and state Highway 26 interchange here in town.
"We don't want it to happen," resident Diana King said Monday.
King is among several apprehensive residents planning to attend a meeting Wednesday on the state’s plan to replace the aging bridges over the North Palouse River with a massive roundabout. The meeting on the proposed roundabout is set for 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 102 S. Main St.
The state is proposing a $13 million roundabout project that eliminates the Chevron gas station and replaces bridges at the interchange. The project would take 2 ½ years to complete, beginning in summer 2025, with a projected completion at the end of 2027.
The plan would also affect Zip's restaurant and possibly other businesses at the interchange and adjacent to the proposed project site.
"They're taking the Chevron station, which is income,” King said. “So, that's another business that is gone, unless they're going to replace it."
According to King, moving or opening a new gas station is expensive.
"How’d that figure into the budget,” she said. “I hope we can get those answers.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Chevron employee said that the roundabout would mean the end of that business.
It would impact the community, as well as the people who work here, she said.
“That would be a major loss,” she said, adding that a roundabout may also provide benefits in the form of traffic flow.
A Zip's employee confirmed the fast food restaurant would be impacted by any decision to build a roundabout. Beyond that, the employee referred questions to Zip's management, which wasn't able to be reached before press time.
Resident and Farmers Insurance Personal Line Specialist Alyx Brokken said building a roundabout at that location doesn’t make sense.
“I don't see it working well; there's not a lot of space," Brokken said.
Resident Jake Novak said that the only roundabout he's experienced is the one in Pullman.
"I don't like roundabouts," he said.
State officials hope to change the minds of those opposed to the roundabout.
During the meeting, the project team explain the design plan and what to expect during construction.
According to state officials, the roundabout would accommodate wide loads, trucks and other vehicles.
"There was definitely concern from people that do the hauling," 9th Legislative District Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, said.
Schmick and Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack organized a meeting a couple of years ago with several heavy hauling companies to discuss related concerns, including the height of the inside lip and whether a roundabout would be wide enough to accommodate large trucks and wide agriculture equipment.
Swannack said the bridges are aging and need replaced.
"We're not going to get money for two bridges," Swannack said, noting that he believes a roundabout will work if it is large enough. "If it isn't designed that way, it will be a wreck."
Swannack and Schmick said state crews measured combines, tractor and trailers to collect data.
Swannack said he understands the community will likely lose a gas station.
"To design one that would work, I don't see how they would do it without removing that chevron there," he said.
Pape Machinery, Agriculture, and Turf General Manager Jeff Solbrack said DOT has a good plan, from what he has seen.
"From all the designs that I saw proposed, they had modeled big trucks and trailers being able to easily navigate the roundabout," he said.
Whitman County Public Works Director Mark Storey said he has been watching the project unfold. And while he is not a fan of roundabouts, if one can be configured for large trucks, it could work. "Roundabouts work well for what they are intended," Storey said, noting they reduce the number of fatal crashes, but lead to an increase in other crashes.
Roundabouts are no usually truck-friendly, he said.