Plans proceed for roundabout near post office

An artist's rendition of a circular traffic roundabout at the intersection of Fifth Street and Washington Avenue depicts the planned traffic flow, with the building housing the U.S. Postal Service Office represented in the bottom center, and Fifth Street shown at left running parallel to the Post Office's main entrance.

The city of McAlester is moving forward on the planned construction of a traffic roundabout at the Fifth Street and Washington Avenue intersection near the U.S. Postal Service Office.

Street project improvements also call for new asphalt along Washington between Fifth and Sixth Streets, with new concrete curbs and gutters between the intersections.

City Manager Pete Stasiak said Wednesday the goal is to get bids for the project this month, have a bid awarded by October and hopefully begin construction in November.

How did the city decide on the Fifth Street and Washington Avenue intersection for the city's first circular traffic roundabout?

"That was a recommendation from the engineers," Stasiak said. "We were looking for a test site large enough to handle a roundabout." The goal is for the roundabout to facilitate an uninhibited flow of traffic through the intersection as part of the larger street reconstruction project, the city manager said.

Stasiak said the city's relatively recent project to redo Washington Avenue from Sixth Street to Eighth Street had originally been intended to extend along Washington to Fifth Street as well, but the money wasn't available at the time. Reconstruction of Washington Avenue between Fifth Street and Sixth Street is included in this project.

That includes the long portion of Washington Avenue adjacent to the U.S. Postal Service Office, where perpendicular parking is available for post office customers. Stasiak said that portion of Washington Avenue will be resurfaced with new curbs and guttering.

"The sidewalk gets moved three feet closer to the building," Stasiak said, referring to the post office. The city will then move the curb three feet closer to the new sidewalks, which should help prevent the rear ends of large vehicles from extending into the street when parked at the post office.

"In conjunction with this, we have a problem with a sewer line from the intersection down Fifth Street," Stasiak said. The city plans to address that problem as part of the larger project. Any storm water issues will also be addressed, he said.

All four city councilors who attended the Tuesday night city council meeting voted to approve a work order hiring the Infrastructure Solutions engineering firm to oversee the roundabout project, send it out for bids and shepherd it along to completion.

The measure authorizes $35,200 to Infrastructure Solutions in relation to the project. Infrastructure Solutions is to be paid $16,600 for construction management and $18,600 for serving as the resident project representative, including preparing bid packages for the project and obtaining bids from contractors for the construction, to reach the $35,200 total.

Ward 1 Councilor Weldon Smith, joined Vice Mayor/Ward 2 Councilor Cully Stevens, Ward 4 Councilor James Brown and Ward 5 Councilor Maureen Harrison in voting unanimously to hire Infrastructure Solutions for the project. Absent from the meeting were Ward 3 Councilor Travis Reed, Ward 6 Councilor Zach Prichard and Mayor John Browne.

Before voting on the item, city councilors had a few questions for Dale Burke, of Infrastructure Solutions.

"Why is there a need for a roundabout there?" asked Councilor Harrison.

"The reason roundabouts are becoming more prevalent in the United States is because they are safer," Burke said. "A roundabout is a lot safer than a regular intersection."

Stevens asked about the difference in cost  in constructing a roundabout as compared to a regular intersection.

"It is a little more expensive — there's a lot more curbing," Burke said. The cost could range from between $50,000 to $60,000 more than a regular intersection, city councilors were told.

City Manager Pete Stasiak interjected at that point that the city already has money available for the project.

"Money was donated by a private benefactor to the city," Stasiak said.

Following the discussion, city councilors cast their 4-to-0 vote to authorize the work order hiring Infrastructure Solutions for the project.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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