An upgraded Sunset Avenue on the western to northwestern side of the city could have a roundabout intersection with Buck Leonard Boulevard and Forest Hill Avenue and would have a simpler intersection at Winstead Avenue and a traffic control signal at Weatherstone Drive.
Additionally, to help slow down traffic, the center turn lane on Sunset from Buck Leonard and Forest Hill to Halifax Road would be replaced with a tree-lined median and the speed limit would be decreased from 45 mph to 35 mph.
The details were outlined by a representative of the Stantec consulting firm.
The firm has been conducting a study to determine a long-range vision for the busy, roughly 2.5-mile corridor — and, in turn, to have new gateways and spur private redevelopment of land and structures.
The total cost of such a project would be about $10.7 million.
The roundabout would cost about $2.2 million, while work on the segment from Buck Leonard and Forest Hill to Winstead would cost roughly $3.7 million and work on the segment from Winstead to Halifax would cost roughly $4.7 million.
Stantec’s Mike Rutkowski on Wednesday told an online open house what he believes to be the bottom line.
“This corridor is unfortunately unsafe,” Rutkowski said, noting that this is compared to similar roadways statewide. Rutkowski also noted the corridor has quite limited lengths of sidewalks.
In speaking about the intersection with Buck Leonard and Forest Hill, Rutkowski said he and team members looked at two options. One would be to clean up the design of the present intersection. The other would be to have a roundabout, which is a circle junction designed to keep traffic flowing.
“The No. 1 traffic-calming device in America is a roundabout. No one is flying through a roundabout more than 15 or 20 mph,” Rutkowski said.
Rutkowski also said he and his team have heard much support in the community for a roundabout at Buck Leonard and Forest Hill.
Rutkowski also referred to the boulevard being named for Leonard, who lived from 1907 to 1997 and who in 1972 was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Why not celebrate your historic character by putting a monument in here or something that celebrates the city, ‘The Center of It All?’” Rutkowski said of a roundabout.
When Rutkowski showed the intersection of Sunset and Winstead, he said, “Here’s the big bugaboo” and illustrated the present nine-lane design of Winstead on the north side of the intersection.
Rutkowski said he believes the present three northbound lanes of Winstead north of the intersection are unnecessary because no feeder approach requires that many lanes. He said those three lanes should be reduced to two.
There presently are six southbound lanes of Winstead approaching the intersection.
Rutkowski said the proposal is to eliminate the exterior right turn lane from southbound Winstead onto westbound Sunset but to keep the inner right turn lane. The problem, Rutkowski said, is that the inner right turn lane is hardly used because motorists are afraid to make the right when a vehicle is alongside to the right.
Rutkowski said he and his team also have pedestrians in mind because reducing the number of lanes would shorten the walking distance over the part of Winstead immediately to the north of the intersection.
When Rutkowski showed the proposed traffic control signal at Weatherstone, he said the reason for having one there would be due to the large gap between the signals at Candlewood Road and Halifax.
Rutkowski also cited the need for having a continuous traffic control system along the corridor.
As for the present overall design of Sunset, Rutkowski referred to the center turn lane.
“And honestly, in terms of safety and crashes, that’s causing a lot of problems,” Rutkowski said. He said that is because a motorist does not know who has the right of way when he or she enters that center turn lane.
In fact, Rutkowski said, about 45 percent of the accidents on the corridor are resulting from angle wrecks — that is, when motorists sideswipe other motorists.
Rutkowski said certain intersections would be redesigned with curbs moved back a bit to permit U-turns by those driving larger vehicles.
As for the present 45 mph speed limit on the corridor, Rutkowski said, “Honestly, folks, if it’s posted 45 that means people are going 55 — and that’s nothing you want in your urban area.
“So we would advocate for that speed limit to be dropped to 35,” Rutkowski said. “It still means people can progress through there, but it’s more of a controlled speed, because we’re going to see a lot more bicycle, pedestrian and transit users here.”
At the same time, Rutkowski made clear that the proposal does not call for having lanes for bicyclists in the roadway because there are so many cars on the corridor. Instead, Rutkowski said, the proposal calls for a roughly 8- to 10-foot multi-use path along Sunset for use by bicyclists, joggers and walkers.
The path would be on the south side of Sunset from the intersection with Buck Leonard and Forest Hill to Winstead and from Winstead the path would be on the north side of Sunset to Halifax.
Rutkowski also made clear that the proposal calls for high-visibility crosswalks.
Rutkowski said the work already has included analyses of data, public input and a design workshop.
The City Council in March signed off on the Stantec firm to do the study of Sunset from Buck Leonard and Forest Hill to Halifax, with the work to cost nearly $115,000 and the state Transportation Department to pay 80 percent of the amount.