by CESAR SALAZAR
Construction of Winona’s new roundabouts came full circle when the remaining three Highway 43/Mankato Avenue roundabouts opened. After a summer of traffic backups and road work, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) contractors all but finished construction.
Contractors fully opened the final three roundabouts today. The roundabouts project, which began in April this year, converted four Mankato Avenue intersections from stoplights to roundabouts to help decrease traffic congestion and reduce serious vehicle accidents, according to MnDOT District 6 Director of Public Engagement and Communications Mike Dougherty. The first roundabout opened in August, and a handful of minor fender benders, but no major accidents, have been reported by Winona law enforcement agencies.
Dougherty said that in his talks with MnDOT Construction Project Manager Mark Anderson, temporary signs informing drivers of the roundabouts will be placed until early December, when more permanent overhead signage will be installed. Drivers can expect to see barricades removed, as well as temporary signs and traffic signals taken off the roundabouts, Dougherty said.
MnDOT planned the project to be finished as early as November, and the looming cold weather hustled the project along, Dougherty said. However, not all work has been finished for the project.
“It’s sort of small, tidying-work next year,” Doughtery said, describing the remaining work for contractors to finish in 2023. “They knew they’d have to do the landscaping next year, that sort of thing. I think just looking ahead and recognizing that they needed to get things shipshape, it all worked out in terms of getting pavement down and everything squared away. We see that on most of our projects. Like anything, when there’s sort of that deadline looming is when you start looking back and [asking] are we where we need to be? I think they just realized everything needed to get to this point now, and that’s good as we head into busier traffic, holiday season.”
Besides signage, the other minor work needing to be done included adding permanent pavement markings, some additional pavement layers in some areas, and landscaping, which would be done next spring, Dougherty said. He added that some closures are possible when the construction crews wrap up that portion of the project.
Dougherty said he’d like to remind drivers to drive appropriately in the roundabouts and to know when to yield and when to go. When driving through a roundabout:
1. Slow down and be ready to stop as you approach the roundabout.
2. Get in the correct lane. Watch for overhead signs and lane markings indicating which lanes to use.
3. Yield to pedestrians. Watch out for pedestrians both as you enter the circle and as you exit.
4. Yield to traffic in the circle. Vehicles in the roundabout have the right-of-way over vehicles looking to enter the roundabout. When entering, look left and wait for a break in traffic to enter the roundabout.
5. While in the circle, keep driving and don't stop to let other cars in.
6. Avoid changing lanes while in the roundabout.
7. Use your signal to indicate when you're exiting the roundabout.
8. Give large trucks extra room.
For information on how to navigate roundabouts, read the Post’s article detailing the process at tinyurl.com/HowToRoundabouts.
“I think the more times people drive through it, the more accustomed they’ll become to it,” Dougherty said. “We’re really happy to get that open, and I’m sure the people that have endured the construction will be happy with the results as they adjust to it. We appreciate everyone’s patience. Construction is never an easy thing, but we were able to keep traffic open through there.”