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Republic Road and Glenstone Avenue
Provided by Missouri Department of Transportation
Republic Road and Glenstone Avenue

Opinion: When roundabouts, economic development come full circle

Eyes & Ears

Posted online

Transportation infrastructure and economic development often work together like yin and yang. Sometimes, one spurs the other and other times it’s vice versa. Sometimes, the impact is immediate and other times there’s a lag or such an indirect effect the connection is hardly noticeable.

With the business of transportation infrastructure in mind as I’m behind my steering wheel, my car shifts into gear and I come upon a roundabout in the making. I’m at South Glenstone Avenue and East Republic Road.

Missouri Department of Transportation crews this summer began the work in southeast Springfield, just south of the James River Freeway overpass. Roundabouts are not new to Springfield. But this roundabout design is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it’s likely to see the most traffic of the handful of roundabouts in the city. Second, it will reconfigure the eastbound ramp onto the freeway so that vehicles traveling east on Republic Road will access U.S. Route 60 East by first circling the roundabout. It’s almost counterintuitive in that drivers will be sent back the direction they came from (west) only to sharply curve back to the east to hop on the freeway. MoDOT has created a computer animation of the traffic patterns that’s worth a view on YouTube (search U.S. Route 60/Glenstone Avenue). Specifically, it’ll consolidate the Glenstone and Republic ramps to eastbound 60 at Harvard Avenue.

If you’ve ever tried to make a left turn coming out of the Nature Center or leaving Hilton Garden Inn, you’ll be relieved by this change. It’s a $22 million overhaul – including the James River Freeway widening and resurfacing contract that went to Hartman & Co. Inc. – and should be ready to navigate by May 2022, according to MoDOT officials.

I welcome the roundabouts in strategic places around the city. The short-lived proposal to add one in the Rountree neighborhood, at Cherry Street and Pickwick Avenue, was a good idea. Economic development had increased the volume of traffic, residents and roaming pedestrians on the street. But I understand the physical constraints that shot it down.

There is a roundabout planned in the Grant Avenue Parkway project. Another place to look for similar development reasons is Galloway Village. A smaller-scale roundabout seems valid on South Lone Pine Avenue, either at Galloway Street or farther south at Republic Street, and would fit the neighborhood aesthetic and vibe with cyclists and runners streaming along the greenway trail.

According to a roundabout database tracked by Kittleson & Associates Inc., there are at least 7,000 roundabouts in the United States – and that includes those termed traffic calming circles, rotaries and other descriptive names. MoDOT officials have 351 roundabouts on record in Missouri.

I’ve seen roundabouts effective in the Kansas City area, where new retail developments are directly adjacent to dense neighborhoods. They serve as a safety buffer in transit between residential and commercial zoning.

Roundabouts have been used for ages in Europe – mostly for function, but there’s also an aesthetic aspect. The center of the circles just beg for a historical or artistic sculpture.

Come to think of it, the arts and economic development go hand in hand, too. Seems we’ve come full circle.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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lruzicka@srcholdings.com

Not sure how this will work other than traffic backing up from cars trying to get on the roundabout and blocking access to the on ramp at Harvard

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