By Polly Keary, Editor
Monroe could get a new roundabout in the downtown, if a grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council comes through.
The council is recommending a grant of $246,000 for the design of a roundabout, a small traffic circle, at the intersection of Main and Fremont, near Main Clothing Company.
The project isn’t among those as listed as top priority on the city’s transportation plan, but it is suggested in the Downtown Master Plan, which is a guideline for the redevelopment of the district over time.
“In many downtowns, congestion occurs along one or two major routes. This is true in Monroe along Main Street and Lewis Street,” the plan reads. “At the same time, the existing street system may have underutilized roadway segments that could provide relief to these congested routes. The most attractive option is Fremont Street.”
The plan proposes that some of Main Street’s traffic be routed to Fremont, and that the intersection there be improved. When the Downtown Master Plan was written, the consultant suggested a traffic light, but also wrote that a roundabout could be an option, although it could be a tight fit.
“The roundabout concept at the intersection of Fremont and Main Street would likely require some realignment of the existing T-intersection and possible acquisition of right-of-way,” the consultant wrote. “Because existing buildings front both sides of Main Street at this intersection a relatively tight urban roundabout design would be required, as would the close proximity of the adjacent Madison / Main Street intersection.”
When Monroe city staff applied to the Puget Sound Regional Council for the grant, they proposed the roundabout option.
“The City of Monroe Downtown Master Plan calls for “gateways” at the entrances to downtown Monroe,” the application reads. “One of the gateways is located at the intersection of Main Street, Madison Street and Fremont Street. A roundabout is proposed to improve traffic flow and provide a location for the “gateway” signage.”
On the application, city staff wrote that a commercial building, a used car lot and three single-family homes would have to be removed to make way for the roundabout.
The city needs the roundabout because of heavy traffic backups at Main and Lewis, the application said.
“Traffic at Main and Lewis backs up at Main due to cars making left-hand turns on to Lewis. The Downtown Master Plan calls for Fremont Street to take this left turn traffic on Main Street,” staff said on the application.
Fremont Street is currently getting improvements along the section near the Monroe School District Administration building, and that is the first step to creating a bypass for some of the Main Street traffic, staff said.
“Construction of the roundabout will provide a necessary step closer to completion and the elimination of traffic congestion at Main and Lewis,” the application said.
The city estimated that the cost of planning and design would be about $246,000, the cost of buying the right-of-way about $2,870,000, and the cost of construction about $2.5 million, for a total of about $5.5 million, to be completed by April of 2017.
The council decided to recommend that the first part of the project, the design costs, be included in the $3.4 million in grants to be dispersed to five projects around the state in September. But first, the public will have a chance to comment through Aug. 9.
There are also five contingency projects on a list for funding, should the money become available.
Among them is $289,000 for the design and construction of a sidewalk on Sultan Basin Road.
If Monroe gets the funds for the design, it’s still not clear from where the rest of the more than $5 million will come, said Monroe Public Works Director Brad Feilberg.
“There might be more [from the council] in the future, but they don’t want to commit to the entire amount,” he said.
The effort to move ahead with the downtown is partly because of the abandonment of the plan to make North Kelsey into an upscale shopping center, Feilberg added.
“They kind of pulled back on the North Kelsey stuff, so the council said ‘Rather than work on two areas, let’s work on the downtown,’” he said.
To comment, send mail to Puget Sound Regional Council, ATTN: Jeff Storrar, 1011 Western Ave., Ste. 500, Seattle, WA 98104-1035, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.