Prompted by several fatalities, with the most recent one last fall, and other vehicular injuries at that intersection, KDOT officials hired a consultant to work with them in developing options to address the problem.
?We asked the consultant, TranSystems, (headquartered in Kansas City, Mo.) to be imaginative and look for new ways to approach this issue and come up with solutions,? Greiser said.
TranSystems came up with several proposals ranging from a standard diamond interchange, similar to the one on the east side of McPherson to split interchanges requiring motorists to stop twice and a few variations of traditional roundabouts.
Another concept was a two quadrant interchange, but according to Palic, none of the proposals were viewed favorably by the committee, except for one.
Known as an enhanced roundabout, Palic said, this design incorporates a traditional roundabout with the addition of a permanent shoofly-type roadway.
?Shooflies,? he said, ?are temporary paths around a construction site.
Simplifying the design, Palic said it?s a circle with a square.
The difference in this proposal, though, is how it will solve several problems at the same time.
With the addition of a roundabout, Palic said, the possibility of a deadly accident is minimal.
?What is unique about this proposal is the way to route traffic around (the roundabout),? he said.
The advantage of the additional square-shaped road allows larger trucks to maneuver on that highway.
?Imagine the Florence Roundabout and the big tanker that came through here last fall,? he said, ?it never would have been able to have done it.?
Palic noted that Hutchinson and Newton will soon be receiving wind energy components and the intersection of U.S. Highway 56 and 77 and K-150 are potential routes for the northeastern part of the state.
?We have to be cognizant of these things too,? he said, ?and be aware of (trucking) concerns.?
Another advantage of the roundabout and permanent shoofly road would be from a maintenance standpoint or as an area for disabled cars or trucks to pull over on.
?We haven?t had to work on the Florence roundabout yet, but not sure what we would do with traffic when we will need to,? he said.
KDOT officials agreed the proposed enhanced roundabout would be well-suited for this area.
?There is little development around the intersection and we wouldn?t have to move any houses,? he said. ?It would also not require a lot of land.?
After reviewing the various design proposals, Greiser said, the commissioners were ?very supportive? of the enhanced roundabout at an estimated cost of between $2.5 and $3 million.
?To us, it made more sense and was the most advantageous,? Greiser said.
Although the modified diamond interchange was also an option, the cost was prohibitive at $10.5 to $12 million.
KDOT?officials approached the commissioners after deciding on a design they believed could work. It was also in response to a petition with more than 300 area residents asking for the state to look at safer alternatives for that intersection.
?Nothing will be done on this project unless we have good support from the area,? Palic said.
?We don?t want to build something without favorable public support.? Marion County Commissioners supported a proposed design for U.S. Highway 56 and 77 and Kansas Highway 150, two miles east of Marion, by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The top proposal, estimated at $2.5 to $3 million, is the preferred option, which includes a roundabout and second roadway for vehicles hauling heavier or oversized loads. The lower drawing is the modified diamond interchange, estimated at $10.5 to $12 million.