The East Grand Forks City Council has chosen to postpone the proposed construction of a roundabout at Bygland Road and Rhinehart Drive until 2022. Council members agreed there is too much uncertainty about whether the city can acquire the land needed in time for construction to begin in 2018, when East Grand Forks will next receive federal dollars for city projects.
"Things out of our control could delay the project, and the risk of that is too great to go forward with this project," said council member Mike Pokrzywinski. "Because if we don't do it, then we'll lose that money."
The City Council made the decision to postpone the project at the group's March 14 work session, and the council had not yet voted to approve the roundabout. The council previously voted to have engineering firm Widseth Smith Nolting draw up conceptual plans, including assessing needs for utility relocation and land acquisition.
City Engineer Steve Emery said the project would be expected to cost $1.4 million, including $976,000 for construction. The total does not include land acquisition. Federal subtarget funds, which East Grand Forks receives every four years for various projects, would cover $860,000 of the project's total cost.
The council has considered several design options for the roundabout, including three different sizes and shifting its location slightly south to address the angle Bygland Road and Rhinehart Drive meet at. Members said a large design, which may have one or two lanes, is likely the best option to accommodate growth in traffic volume and oversized vehicles such as buses and trucks.
"That would be the only one that I would vote for, is if we went for the large-size roundabout," said council member Chad Grassel. "That way it would give some more freedom. ... The bigger one seemed to work better for that kind of traffic flow."
Council members who have heard reservations about the project from their constituents said key concerns are its cost and unfamiliarity with roundabouts and their safety.
"I've talked to school bus drivers to just regular people that are driving that road every day, and they're not quite sure if that's the end-all, cure-all for that road," Grassel said.
Pokrzywinski said he encourages residents who have never driven through the area during the morning rush hour to do so and get a sense of the need for the roundabout.
"It will change your mind if you've never seen it before," he said. "It's like big-city traffic for about 45 minutes to an hour and a half every morning. ... If you've never been through that morning commute trying to get onto that road, you really don't have the authority to say that we don't need it."
Council members on both sides of the fence said waiting until 2022 is the right choice to make an informed decision on the project.
"I really think it's probably in our best interest to spend money the right way instead of rushing through something and getting a product that we really don't want," Grassel said.