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Bring on the roundabout! (03/23/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

Highway projects are not something I usually look forward to. But this year is different. First, Iím looking forward to trying to get around the highway trucks and workers who are going to fill all the potholes this hard winter has left on our roads and streets. Second, Iím looking forward to the new roundabout that will be built at the intersection of Homer Road and County Road 17 ó not that Iím looking forward to negotiating the construction.

I am now a CR 17 daily traveler, and as such have spent a summer and winter stuck at the stop sign at that intersection as I try to drive into Winona from Wilson Township. What makes it annoying is that traffic must be clear going both ways before I can turn towards town. Traffic coming from the east on Homer Road is hidden by the curve in the road, and complicating that is the fact that on some days there is a lot of traffic coming out of the Pleasant Valley Church parking lot just when I think there will be a little break. Mornings and afternoons when school is beginning and ending are the worst, with big school buses coming in a steady line to and from the Middle School.

Traffic coming from Winona can either turn onto CR 17, or go straight on Homer Road. If people would use their turn signals, life would be a lot easier for us CR 17 drivers, but many donít, so you canít really turn in front of Winona traffic until you see them veer off Homer Road.

Cars coming from the direction of Homer who want to turn onto CR 17 have to manipulate a left turn lane that is so hard to see and confusing that when the first big snowfall came, even the snowplow missed it.

With a roundabout, traffic coming from Winona and Homer will still not have to stop, and cars coming from CR 17 wonít have to stop, either. If I want to turn right towards Homer, I will just slip into the traffic and proceed to the right and exit on Homer Road. If I want to go to Winona, I slip in behind a car and proceed right, counterclockwise around the circle and exit towards Winona. And, if I have forgotten something and have to go back home, I can just continue all the way around and go home on CR 17.

It sounds very confusing, but in practice, it is very easy. Traffic slows down for the roundabout, so merging is easier, and once you get the hang of it, it is quite natural. Thereís no stopping, and according to a video on the city of Winona website http://www.cityofwinona-mn.com, there is an 80% reduction in crashes involving injuries and a 40% reduction in all crashes at intersections controlled by a roundabout. Crashes that do occur are usually of the sideswipe sort.

But there is no head-on traffic. All the driver has to do is look left and drive right. Traffic moves constantly. Not stopping and starting saves fuel. Without signs and lights, and a nice green circle in the road, itís prettier, and can be nicely landscaped.

I have used roundabouts in New England (those drivers are so aggressive that the state often puts speed bumps at the entrance to roundabouts!) and in Europe. The British Isles are a little tricky, what with driving on the left and all. You have to be careful not to enter the roundabout going the wrong way when you drive there.

But Europeans have no trouble using roundabouts, so I am confident Winonans will conquer this one easily. After all, most of us have ancestors who escaped from Europe to come here, and that must make us the smart ones.

Bring on the roundabout!

Marilou Kiehnbaum, R.I.P.

Weíve known the Kiehnbaums for ages ≠ó Carl and Marilou. They were members of the same church as my in-laws. In my mind, they represented downtown Winona, pre-urban renewal (the bane of many a downtown commercial district). Federal money burned a hole in the pockets of city officials until they tore down gorgeous old three-storey brick buildings and built ó well ó what we now have.

The Kiehnbaums owned Williams Books and Stationery in the old Morgan block. It was an old-time place with merchandise displayed on large footed tables. You could buy stationery supplies, art supplies, and order invitations, but you could also get lace handkerchiefs and such things that were considered necessities at one time. Upstairs were apartments, which housed various friends of ours during college and after in great high-ceilinged rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.

When Williamsí (Marilouís family were the Williams) was displaced, the Kiehnbaums moved the store east a block and kept on going.

Our sympathies to Marilouís family. Goodbye to many memories.



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