Friday, January 15, 2021

Coming around to roundabouts on SR 99 in Fife

By Nick VinZant

What did the engineer say to the driver who was skeptical about roundabouts? "Give it some time and you'll come around."

Okay, maybe we won't make it on the comedy circuit anytime soon but stick around to learn about a new roundabout under construction in Fife. Northbound SR 99 traffic will start using it soon. As part of the SR 167 Completion Project, we are building a new roundabout to reduce congestion and improve freight mobility in the area. In fact, we worked with the City of Fife, the Port of Tacoma, and the freight community to make sure it can accommodate the large trucks that will use it regularly, as well as cars and people who walk and bike through the area.
Round and round we go. The SR 167 Completion Project includes a new SR 99 roundabout
and new, four-lane 70th Avenue East Bridge.

The roundabout
The new SR 99 roundabout will connect SR 99 and the new 70th Avenue East Bridge. Drivers will enter the roundabout from either SR 99 or 70th Avenue East and then travel in one of three directions: south on SR 99, north on SR 99 or south on 70th Avenue East. Like other high-volume roundabouts designed with trucks in mind, this roundabout has two lanes. It also has two bypass lanes: One that will provide direct access to 70th Avenue East from northbound SR 99 and one that will provide direct access from 70th Avenue East to northbound SR 99. In addition to two through-lanes, the new SR 99 roundabout will have sidewalks and crosswalks for people who bike and walk in the area. The crosswalks include pedestrian-activated flashing beacons.
The northbound portion of the roundabout is nearing completion. Northbound traffic (highlighted in green) will start using the roundabout soon. Southbound traffic (highlighted in blue) will shift later in the year when construction is finished.

Opening act: Half a roundabout
We've been busy building the northbound lanes of the roundabout next to SR 99. As early as January 30 (weather permitting), we will shift northbound traffic into the roundabout and crews will start working on the southbound lanes. Think of it as our opening act. Southbound SR 99 drivers will continue to use the current southbound SR 99 alignment until all construction is done, with both directions expected to be fully open by mid-2021.

Why a roundabout?
Yes, they take some getting used to. But ultimately, roundabouts help traffic flow better (no stoplights), are safer (reduced speeds), and are more cost efficient than intersections using traffic signals. How do we know?
  • Improved traffic flow: A recent study out of Kansas State University shows that there's a 20 percent reduction in delays when roundabouts are used instead of stoplights. A second study by the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concluded that roundabouts reduced vehicle stops by 56 percent. These types of reductions are especially important at intersections like SR 99/70th Avenue East, where there's a large amount of freight traffic. We worked closely with the Port of Tacoma and the freight community to ensure the roundabout will work for large trucks. For example, this roundabout is designed with wide lanes and what's called a truck apron (a sloped, raised section of pavement around the center island) that trucks can easily drive over and complete their turns.
  • Safer: Studies also show roundabouts reduce injury collisions. According to the IIHS, roundabouts reduce fatal crashes by 90 percent, injury crashes by 75 percent and overall crashes by 37 percent. Because of their design, roundabouts greatly reduce the dangerous T-bone collisions that can occur at signalized intersections.
  • More cost-efficient: Traffic lights are expensive. On average, they cost between $5,000 and $10,000 a year to maintain. The new roundabout provides a cost-effective, safe traffic solution.
The bigger picture
We designed the new roundabout to work with the rest of the 70th Avenue East Bridge Replacement Project – a new bridge over I-5 at 70th Avenue East. The bridge replaces an existing two-lane bridge with a four-lane bridge and adds a 12-foot-wide shared used path. The bridge and roundabout will reduce the delays drivers currently experience on the existing bridge and SR 99/70th Avenue East intersection, as well as improve safety for everyone who drives, walks, bikes or rolls through the area.

Wait, wait. We've got one more…
What do you call happy drivers in a roundabout? A Merry-Go-Round! If that doesn't get you in the mood to drive in the new roundabout, we have some excellent resources you can circle back to. Below you will find everything from safety tips to an instructional video.


Anonymous said...

Turns are to tight for semis bad enough for cars. Going to slow 99 down badly. Will be lots of traffic jams

Unknown said...

I agree the roundabout is too small. There are now signs saying not to drive next to the semi trucks. I have touched my tires on my KIA soul. Why is this intersection so tight when it's main reason for existence to relieve truck congestion on 70th st.

Unknown said...

the 2 lanes northbound in the roundabout both have to be used to navigate the circle by trucks . having said that the solution would be to add 2 more lanes , that would make 4 lanes ,then divide the 4 lanes into 2 .
I'm only posting because as a truck driver I've had 2 close calls

Unknown said...

we moved our business from the other side off of 70th to the port just because of this intersection. I have no idea what the thought process was when thinking that this was a good idea. Trucks have to take both lanes and car drivers either don't know or don't care. I see nothing but a chokepoint on a busy enough road. Once everything is finished the trucks will be even more restricted and become more of a traffic hazard. Trucks will slow to a crawl causing backups in a situation where the have to fight for position. This will continue to be a major corridor but it will definitely not have the desired effects the people planning it were hoping for.

Unknown said...

Looking at another similar project up north on hwy 20 it works because you don't force traffic into the roundabout. There are bypass lanes taking out the nip points. South bound on 99 there should be lane seperater a left turn lane and bypass. Having both lanes enter the roundabout will create more traffic entering the area when it's not required. The only reason I could think of for this is the future plans to connect to 509. If people just do the suggested speeds the roundabout works it's when people are negligent/distracted issues arise.

JHOSS said...

I hope someone is actually able and willing to respond/ answer this question, because it is VERY sincere.

WHY design this roundabout with two lanes, then have it so designed so that semi trucks and trailers have to take up both lanes to drive through, effectively reducing it to one thru lane each direction?

you've had to place VMS boards which state 'DO NOT DRIVE NEXT TO SEMIS IN ROUNDABOUT', and also install permanent yellow warning sign s stating the same. the semis going through just drift over and take both lanes going through, regadless of traffic.

so if a driver is in there leagal lane of travel, and the semi trailer drifts over the center line (WHICH IT MUST TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE ROUNDABOUT), whose fault will the accident be, the driver in their legal lane, or the truck driver who cannot manuever through the road design without swerving into the second lane???

i would very much appreciate a response

Dman said...

Whoever designed this should be fired immediately

Unknown said...

A civil engineering miracle! Someone in a small car is going to get squished! Another giant waste of money

Unknown said...

I shake my head in disgust at the poor planning that went into this interchange. I have read the statements by the state as to why this is such a good idea but the reality is far different. Allowing for a better flow of traffic, accommodate truck traffic, decreased accidents is a bunch of lies. Right now traffic is slowing, trucks take up two lanes instead of one, congestion builds north bound and only half of the round about is in use. Traffic has increased in Fife Heights to avoid the engineer disaster and decreasing the chance of your car getting sideswiped by a truck.
This round about should have been large enough that a semi-truck could make it through without endangering another vehicle. Connecting HWY 167 to the Port of Tacoma is going to drastically increase traffic of all vehicles as we know. Installing a round about that reduces traffic to one lane was so short sided it is incredible. The attorneys are going to have a field day with this engineering disaster.

Unknown said...

Sorry to say , but FAIL ! My sincere hope is that you correct the mistakes before bothering to complete this fail . Bad geometry .

Roundabout Fan said...

Looks like a huge improvement to me. They need to get rid of all of the signalized intersections in Fife. They just back up traffic.

Roundabout Fan said...

Anytime we get rid of signalized intersection and replace with a roundabout it will be an improvement.

Unknown said...

Truck traffic is the port lifeblood . DOT should be ashamed . Nothing learned in 40 years . A dedicated truck route was promised in the 80s .
Instead, the locals add streetlights and planters and sidewalks for the Emerald Queen casino neighborhood . NO TRAFFIC RELIEF IN PIERCE COUNTY FOR YEARS

Unknown said...

The whole area is a joke. I have worked in that area for 25 yrs and none of their so called improvements has help the traffic situation. No police enforcement for all those semis that constantly block intersections and run red lights. They do it because they know they can get away with it. You only see police heading back to their station or if there is an accident. Obviously semis aren't the only offenders but they cause the biggest problems and most damage. And now a roundabout where they have the right away? Give me a break

Famouszor said...

This roundabout sucks. No one understands what a yield sign means. Going south 99, 70th st traffic just kept going not yielding to anyone. I then get a change to go, a semi blast his horn at me, North 99 traffic just keeps going with no one yielding forcing me to stop in the middle and wait for an opening while drivers are flipping me the bird.
I will never drive this area again, I’ll just go up the hill into fife heights and down 54th.

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