Marion roundabout projected to open Dec. 23

This aerial view of the enhanced roundabout outside  Marion shows the shoofly design that will make it easier for ?super loads? to maneuver on the outside as smaller vehicles use the interior part of the roundabout.
This aerial view of the enhanced roundabout outside Marion shows the shoofly design that will make it easier for ?super loads? to maneuver on the outside as smaller vehicles use the interior part of the roundabout.
It?s the only roundabout of its kind in the United States, and Department of Transportation officials will be watching to see how well the trial design works in accommodating super load traffic.

Known as an enhanced or shoofly concept, the roundabout is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 56, U.S. High?way 77 and Kansas High?way 150, said Mervin Lare, KDOT construction manager in Marion.

?Right now, our target to have it opened up is Dec. 23, but that?s barring any weather (problems),? Lare said.

The only things left to do include pouring the remaining concrete, putting light poles up, striping the roadway and adding signage, according to Lare.

?There?s a flurry of activity out there with all the contractors and subcontractors getting their pieces (of the project) done,? he said.

Even though the roundabout will open next week, the final completion date isn?t until June.

?We have to put in permanent striping because all of our paints are water-based paints,? Lare said. ?What happens is that when we put (striping) down in the winter, it freezes and peels off.?

Special enhancements

Joe Palic, KDOT area engineer in Marion, said the new roundabout has enhancements.

?Shooflies are built temporarily because they are used for traffic (while the roundabout is being constructed), and then once it is completed, we tear (the shoofly) out.

?This is designed a bit different, leaving the shoofly in place permanently, so large loads have the ability to bypass the roundabout,? Palic said.

Current roundabouts are designed with a truck apron, which is a raised section of pavement around the central island that acts as an extra lane for large vehicles, he said.

?When I talk about a large load, I am talking about wind turbine propeller blades or oil field equipment from Sauder Manufacturing in Emporia,? Palic said.

Lare said KDOT?s biggest hope is that this design will accommodate those types of super loads.

?If it works with the shooflies around the outside (of the roundabout), then those could be retrofitted on other roundabouts to allow for super loads to go through,? he said.

The hope, too, is that it may open up the state to more of these super-sized loads, Lare said.

?Right now a lot of these super loads (200 to 250 feet long) are stopped from going through Kansas wherever there is a roundabout with tight diameters.?

Citing the roundabout at Florence as an example, Lare said if a shoofly was put around it, then wind turbine blades or other super loads would be able to get around it.

?U.S. Highway 50 would then be able to accommodate that kind of traffic,? he said. ?KDOT is looking at more of these because it is a much cheaper design then trying to build an interchange at a cost of $10 million compared to $2 million.?

Lare added the Marion roundabout was a bit more expensive than the $2 million with additional pavement to replace on U.S. 56 and K-150.

Those extra expenses cost an additional $2 million, he said.

Saving lives

Marion County residents have long wanted KDOT to look at a roundabout at the intersection near the city of Marion.

According to Sarah Palubinski, with KDOT?s Freedom of Information office, 17 accidents occurred at that intersection from January 2007 through September 2011.

Ten of those accidents involved personal injury and the other seven with property damage, she said.

Gene Winkler, a Marion resident and EMT, said he was concerned about motorists who were unfamiliar with the intersection.

?We are out in the middle of nowhere,? he said, adding that drivers may not see a car for 20 to 30 miles and may not be prepared for cross traffic.

Based on Winkler?s tenacity to get a petition circulated and sent to KDOT, along with a letter from former city administrator Doug Kjellin, KDOT took note.

Cheryl Lambrecht, KDOT senior traffic engineer in Topeka, was instrumental in getting the roundabout near Florence.

She said that while a petition wasn?t necessarily needed to get KDOT to look at a specific road issue, she did thank him.

After looking at all the options and weighing the possibilities, she said KDOT came up with the recommendation to build the enhanced roundabout.

The project started in early June.