Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Getting to know the Wapato Way roundabout - Part II

By Lizzy Buechel

You may think you know the Wapato Way roundabout in Fife, but do you ‘know know’ the Wapato Way roundabout? 

With two years of use under its belt, the Wapato Way roundabout connecting State Route 99 to the new Wapato Way East Bridge over Interstate 5 has become a familiar intersection for frequent travelers through Fife. But sometimes people need to know a little more about something to truly understand it. So, we’ve launched a three-part blog series to re-introduce the Wapato Way roundabout and answer some of the most common questions we hear from the community.

Part I: Don’t stop me now: Why a roundabout instead of a traffic signal?

Part II: It likes big trucks, and it cannot lie: Is a roundabout safe for trucks?

Part III: It spins me right round baby, right round: How do I use a roundabout?

Check back next Tuesday for the last installment.

Part II: It likes big trucks and it cannot lie: Is a roundabout safe for trucks?

And we can’t deny. … that roundabouts are designed for use by large trucks and freight! So, the short answer is yes.

Today, we’re going to keep the focus of this series on a roundabout near and dear to our hearts – the new-ish Wapato Way roundabout. During the design process for this roundabout, our traffic engineers factored in the intersection’s proximity to the Port of Tacoma and local warehouse distribution centers, designing a roundabout that is safe for oversized vehicles. The Wapato Way roundabout includes wider-than-typical lanes to accommodate frequent use by semi-trucks as well as a truck apron. A truck apron? Yep, a truck apron is a raised section of concrete around the center island that offers oversize vehicles more space to make turns. The apron provides room for the back wheels of large vehicles to ride onto, which can help them to turn in a scenario where they get off-track or can’t straddle multiple lanes.

The Wapato Way roundabout is safe for all vehicles, including trucks. However, for the roundabout to work as intended, drivers of all vehicles need to learn the best way to share a roundabout with an oversized vehicle.

Tight squeeze? It doesn’t have to be!

Still skeptical that we can all share one roundabout? While it may be a little intimidating the first time around, these two tips will make your travels safer and easier:

  1. Give space
    Do not drive next to or try to pass a truck inside a roundabout. Many people don’t know that by law, large trucks are permitted and encouraged to straddle two lanes to enter and move through the roundabout. So when traveling through a multi-lane roundabout, please give trucks plenty of space.
  1. Slow down
    Always slow down when entering the roundabout. The posted speed limit on SR 99 is 35 mph and a safe roundabout speed is 15 mph. This speed limit is in place for a reason and helps ensure you can safely maneuver the turns required to go through the intersection.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of the Wapato Way roundabout, and why we are installing roundabouts on the SR 167 Completion project, check out this roundabout fact sheet, which explains each factor in more detail.