New Kansas Roundabout Guide is Ahead of the Curve

April 15, 2014

March marked the release of an important addition to the transportation industry’s collective body of knowledge about modern roundabouts, the Kansas Roundabout Guide 2nd Edition 2014. The document, developed for the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), provides not only information and guidance on roundabouts in that state, but also serves as a valuable resource to transportation engineers and planners elsewhere.

The guide, produced by Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI) in collaboration with KDOT and transportation practitioners and researchers worldwide, synthesizes best practices and the latest research concerning modern roundabouts. Considered a companion to National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 672: Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, 2nd Edition, the Kansas document features the most up-to-date safety research while also providing detailed information applicable to Kansas about subjects ranging from oversize/overweight vehicles to high-speed rural roundabouts.

Steve King, PE, road design leader with the Kansas Department of Transportation, said the new guide presents information that responds to the broad array of questions and comments the agency received from practitioners, jurisdictions and stakeholders around the state in the decade since Kansas’ first guide was developed.

A lot has changed in 10 years. The new guide brings things up to date in terms of what we’ve learned and reflects the current state of practice. It was a good, fun project to work on. We’re really proud of the content.

Roundabouts – circular intersections in which traffic travels counterclockwise around a central island and entering traffic must yield to circulating traffic – are relatively new in the United States compared with other countries. Kansas was at the forefront of the domestic modern roundabout movement. Its first roundabout opened in 1997. Kansas is one of just a handful of states that has a stand-alone roundabout guide (its first edition was published in 2003), and as of last year the state had more than 100 roundabouts in operation along rural high-speed roads and suburban arterials and in urban settings.

The Kansas guide is the latest in KAI’s industry-leading contributions in roundabout planning, design, and operations nationally. KAI staff members have been involved in the feasibility study, peer review, and final design of more than 500 potential or constructed roundabouts in North America. In addition to NCHRP Report 672, the firm led the development of the original FHWA and Kansas roundabout guides, and also led the nation’s most comprehensive research study of roundabouts in NCHRP Report 572, Applying Roundabouts in the United States.

“Roundabouts already are an integral part of the Kansas transportation system, and transportation officials there want to continue to ensure a consistent design approach and design elements,” said Alek Pochowski, AICP, PE, a KAI engineer and planner.

Alek, who served as project manager on the Kansas guide, described it as immensely valuable in that appropriately applied and well-designed roundabouts offer a host of advantages over signalized and stop-controlled intersections, including better safety performance overall, shorter delays and queues, lower vehicle speeds, and opportunities for design features that enhance communities. To that end, each successful project contributes to the positive movement in America of modern roundabouts.

For Alek, the Kansas guide in many ways brought things full circle. He grew up in Kansas, was introduced to the original FHWA roundabout guide and first heard about KAI as an intern with the city of Lenexa, Kan., between his sophomore and junior years at Iowa State University, and wrote his graduate-school thesis on statewide roundabout programs and policies.

“Personally, this was an incredible project and really rewarding,” he said.

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