From: Ruth E. Badciong

Winona

 

I attended the MnDOT August open house and raised the concern that roundabouts are coming but the residents who will be essentially required to use them have little or no experience using roundabouts. I was asked by the “roundabout team” to share my suggestions for educating the public. Excerpts from my letter to the project leader follow: 

Construct a roundabout at the intersection of Mankato Avenue and Sarnia in 2022. Monitor and collect data on the impact of the new roundabout on safety and also on the confidence level of local drivers. Provide opportunities for the public to share comments and suggestions for any needed “tweaks” to the new construction. Monitor trends in both safety and driver confidence. Compare the data with safety and consumer confidence data from the same period for the remaining three intersections. If the data show that additional roundabouts are warranted and that the public is sufficiently prepared to navigate them safely, construct an additional roundabout or two roundabouts in 2025 and the multi-lane roundabout as the final component of the project after the three smaller roundabouts have been established and a critical mass of Winona drivers (and regular visitors from neighboring communities) has been established.

Background/rationale: When making a major change to any system, you need to get each of the constituencies who will be impacted by the change to “buy into” the change/vision and ideally to view it as their own. This will be an uphill battle, as many (most?) residents oppose the roundabouts, particularly the one at Highway 61 and Mankato Avenue. However, even those who oppose these roundabouts have expressed that the roundabout planned for Mankato and Sarnia would or could be an improvement to safety at that intersection. After viewing the display boards at the August open house, I drew the conclusion that this also was the primary safety concern that was shared by residents with MnDOT during the investigatory stages of this project. 

Additionally, when teaching a new skill or process, you should not start with the most complex skills or concepts, but rather begin with the basics, building on what students have already learned. When teaching swimming lessons, responsible instructors don’t throw children with no experience in the water into the deep end without a life jacket and expect them to “figure it out as they go.” They instead teach skills and give practice in the shallow section and then provide supervised experiences in progressively deeper water. With graduated practice students gain both skills and confidence. Skill in navigating roundabouts is certainly important, but confidence is also critical, particularly as driver error will be responsible for most collisions within the roundabout.  

Staggering the construction of the roundabouts over time and beginning in the “shallow end” where the need is greatest, the current speed limits are lowest, and the “buy in” to the construction is the highest should provide a safer and more effective pathway to the implementation of the entire roundabout construction project.

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