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$2 million roundabout in the future?

Mattawa Area News of Mattawa, Washington

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Department of Transportation officials were in Mattawa last week to discuss with locals the proposed changes to the corner of State Route 243 and Road 24 SW.

Kirk Berg, the Washington State Department of Transportation Assistant Regional Administrator for Engineering in the Wenatchee office, discussed what may be happening on the highway.

So far $3.2 million has been allocated for the improvement project, but the preferred option cost an estimated $5 million. That was the grade separation with a roadway going over the top of 243. The next thing on the table was a roundabout and at a $2 million cost, that is what is being considered as the next option.

Berg explained that a roundabout historically provides free movement of traffic at lower speeds.

"Drivers can make a right turn, a left turn, go through or even make a U turn," he said. "State and nationwide, roundabouts reduce the number of crashes tremendously," he said. "There are benefits all the way around."

One of the main factors of a roundabout is reducing traffic before vehicles get to the section. Berg said that signs and warnings would be installed on 243 bringing the speed down to possibly 35 miles an hour coming up to the proposed roundabout.

At the meeting, representatives of Eckenberg Farms, Inc. explained that trucks in the area are often longer than a standard semi-truck so they might have problems with the traffic plan. Berg said they would be measuring local trucks and then engineer plans that would accommodate increased lengths.

Bob Eckenberg, President of Eckenberg Farms, Inc. said he has plenty of concerns about the roundabout proposal.

He believes the best fix for the corner would be the separated roadway, which is currently out of budget.

"I am very concerned about traffic going into this roundabout and heading up or coming down the Mattawa hill. This looks to be an issue, for anyone, especially school buses and trucks, which are the back bone of the agricultural community," said Eckenberg.

The six percent grade is an issue in the winter, he said, because of ice on the hill. "How will this work with the roundabout?" he asked.

He believes it is vital that any remaining funds be used in the highway corridor to slow vehicles down and warn people of the upcoming roundabout.

Can you imagine coming through the area at 60 miles an hour and finding a 150 feet roundabout in the middle of the highway, he said.

As for a timeline, Berg said that the DOT is just now working on the options, but he hopes to have construction started by late 2013 or early 2014.

Several things have to happen first including right-of-ways purchased and input on what other improvements locals would like to see on the highway corridor.

Berg explained that he is working with the Port, City of Mattawa and Grant County to get support and ideas of where the extra $1.2 million can be used on local highway improvements.

Original Publication Date: January 18, 2012

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