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County gets award for 'Roundabout U'

The first multi-lane roundabout in Minnesota at Radio Drive and Bailey Road is the reason why Washington County Public Works is being recognized by the American Public Works Association.

The award, "Exceptional Performance in Journalism," was given to the department for its education efforts that helped drivers get more comfortable navigating the roundabout.

The campaign "Roundabout U" started when the discussions to build a roundabout began in 2006.

While gathering resident input, County Engineer Wayne Sandberg said "we realized we weren't getting through to people."

Some people were too afraid or intimidated by the roundabouts, some said they weren't sure a roundabout was a safe option for that intersection and others said they've had negative experiences driving in roundabouts in other parts of the country, Sandberg added. On the other hand, some drivers were excited for the project.

A 15-by-15 foot room-sized model, complete with miniature traffic signs, was developed for people to walk around and see how the actual roundabout would work.

"Our goal wasn't to create roundabout experts, it was to eliminate that edge or that fear," Sandberg said.

Another model at the scale of a matchbox-sized car was created. It allowed staff and interested drivers to place toy cars in various positions to illustrate driving situations.

"One of the key things that we decided to do from the very beginning, everything we do, ... was going to be available to any agency who wanted to use it," Sandberg said of all of the marketing materials created, adding that a few agencies from other states have already used them to overcome similar challenges.

The roundabout at Radio Drive and Bailey Road was constructed in 2008 to control backed-up traffic in the former four-way stop intersection.

Others have also been subsequently created in Woodbury, including four roundabouts leading up to East Ridge High School.

"People have accepted it as a good form of traffic control that's safe, efficient," Sandberg said.

He added that roundabouts are currently being considered at Woodbury Drive and Bailey Road as part of a future construction project.

Washington County Public Works will receive a plaque and an opportunity to attend a ceremony to accept the award in Denver, Colo. this September.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.