Uniting Analysis and Design Adds the Greatest Value
U.S. firm leads country to better flow and safer intersections with roundabouts
PROGRESS TAKING ITS OWN TIME
It wasn’t all that long ago when a suggestion for a roundabout as a traffic solution would receive a scoff in the United States. Ignorance and skepticism about these strange European configurations were the prevailing reaction. In 1998, Pat McGrady was introduced to the benefits of roundabouts and the power within SIDRA INTERSECTION software to help change the closed attitudes. He absorbed a half day presentation at a roundabout conference in Loveland, Colorado by Dr. Rahmi Akçelik, Leading Scientist, Software Developer and Director at Akçelik & Associates.
Pat McGrady is Project Designer and Roundabout Specialist and Kelli Owen is Chief Engineer and Project Manager at Reid Middleton. In 2004 it was Pat educating others during his presentation at the Institute of Transportation Engineers meeting on roundabouts when he was approached by a representative from the city of Issaquah, Washington for his opinion on some rudimentary roundabout drawings. Approximately two thousand hours were dedicated by Pat and Kelli and their ten person team, three who worked with SIDRA INTERSECTION. The software proved indispensible in modeling the bypass lanes and the reports generated were a critical aid in communicating the design plans to all parties along the way. Pat made presentations to city council and then to the public at a myriad of venues including an open house at a church and at a retirement community to prepare everyone for their new roundabout. The contractor was particularly pleased with what Reid Middleton could provide to them in terms of plan sets. The typical roadway plans simply don’t work for roundabouts and Pat and his team learned awhile back that they would need to devise a different methodology, and they did.
Stakeholders within the county and city, the developer, contractor, and public were all involved and highly satisfied. Kelli cites the meaningful results, “It is safer now, speeds are slower and there are no longer long queues of people waiting at a traffic light and everyone is amazed at the efficiency. Combine these facts with how roundabouts mitigate access issues in and out of properties, and the reduction of damage to life and property, then one begins to understand why we are seeing roundabouts sprouting up with regularity.”
View the video of commercial trucks, pedestrians, commuter traffic, and bicyclists in efficient motion at this Issaquah, Washington intersection http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpzhPGFF5TQ
DESIGN TOOLS MAXIMIZE ENGINEERING EFFORT
Pat has used SIDRA INTERSECTION for ten years now and explains that it is an industry standard. Their clients use it and expect them to use it as well which they enthusiastically do. Akçelik and Associates was very responsive to the feedback he and others had provided to them which manifested as improvements to the SIDRA INTERSECTION upgrade from version 4 to 5. It remains a given that any questions by Pat and his colleagues are always quickly answered.
Reid Middleton relies on the software for its robust features and flexibility including easily modeling bypass lanes and pedestrian traffic. Pat especially values the support in working out the roundabout geometry and the analysis capabilities which accommodate for necessary right-of-ways. Pat says, “There are no surprises. An agency is not sold on a roundabout only later to find out that they don’t own or have access to land which would be needed for right-of-ways.”
Reid Middleton routinely experience non-constructible configuration designs by planners which they have to rework from the beginning due to lack of foresight and expertise. Pat recalled how he recently received an analysis for a roundabout needing two lanes in one direction and one in the other and it was to have a design life of five years. He saw that there was no way it would tangibly work and he reworked the analysis and created a design that would last for ten years. The software doesn’t replace the engineer, it augments and maximizes their efforts. Understanding this is why Reid Middleton now has one of the more extensive lists of roundabout projects in the country.
INSIGHT TO BUILD ON
Pat believes he well understands where some of the breakdown is occurring, “There is a tendency in DOT agencies in cities and counties to segregate their traffic analysis and roadway designers. In our state’s DOT they’re not even in the same building. I’ve stated that if I were king for a day, I’d use my status to command that you don’t segregate these two functions, they are to sit right next to each other and the best solutions is that both experts are being informed and are performing both functions; they’re having the design knowledge when they do the analysis.” Kelli concurs that too often there exists a disconnect between analysis and design ”…you can’t just go in and change dimensions until you get the numbers you want in the end if the design doesn’t practically work.”
At the time Akçelik and Associates sat down to talk with Pat and Kelli they had already worked on 170 roundabouts and were responsible for getting 21 in the ground. They conduct peer review, education, feasibility analysis, and design all the way through construction. While some firms do the design and hand it off, Reid Middleton takes pride in staying involved to see the traffic actually in flow.
Interviewee: Pat McGrady, Project Designer and Roundabout Specialist
Company: Reid Middleton – Engineers, Planners, Surveyors
Address: 728 134th Street SW, Suite 200, Everett, WA 98204 USA
Specialties: Traffic, Airport, Civil, Waterfront: Piers, Marinas, Structural, Earthquake Retrofit Specialty