Florence roundabout problems not unique

Trucks should be rerouted to other state highways — not county roads

Staff reporter

Marion County officials recently discussed issues related to the roundabout on U.S.-50/77 near Florence.

Recently some larger trucks could not drive through the roundabout because the trailers were too long which resulted in county roads being used.

When the roundabout was being constructed, the Marion County Record contacted Kansas Department of Transportation and was told the intersection construction was large enough and could accommodate truck traffic.

It's a delicate balance for KDOT, between safety and allowing trucking companies and individuals to conduct business.

The roundabout was designed and constructed because there were numerous accidents at that intersection. Previously, traffic on U.S.-77 had to stop while traffic on U.S.-50 did not.

After those accidents, KDOT made that intersection a four-way stop with the idea of designing a roundabout. Roundabouts have become popular alternatives to stop signs on major highways and streets because it allows the majority of traffic to continue through the intersection without having to come to a complete stop.

While the roundabout was being constructed, concerns were voiced about the thoroughfare being too small — which meant longer and wider loads would not be able to use the intersection.

At a recent Marion County Commission meeting, acting county public works director John Summerville expressed his concerns regarding the issuing of permits to trucking companies who must use county roads because the loads cannot go through the roundabout intersection.

Cheryl Lambrecht, KDOT senior traffic engineer for roundabouts, was contacted.

"Most of the standard trucks can pass through (the Florence roundabout)," she said. "It's difficult to accommodate oversized loads on standard roads and intersections."

If all roundabouts and intersections were designed and built to accommodate oversized loads, there would be a tremendous amount of wasted land and materials because there just aren't that many of them.

If the middle islands were removed from the roundabouts to allow for the oversized loads, then standard trucks and passenger vehicles could drive at a higher rate of speed through the roundabouts, Lambrecht said, which would result in a safety hazard.

Roundabouts were modeled after a 200-foot long trailer, which is the standard length of semis.

Joe Palic, the Marion County area KDOT engineer, said there had been a time when wind tower blades, heading to western Kansas, were passing through the state — as many as 15 per week.

"Those companies were directed to use the interstate," Palic said.

But as far as a problem in Marion County and the Florence roundabout, Palic said he was not aware of any problems.

Palic explained that weight is another consideration besides length and width of loads. For instance, 80,000 pounds per truck and trailer is the legal load limit on interstate highways and 84,000 pounds on the state highway system, Palic said.

Pre-constructed houses and mobile homes are common sites on state highways in Marion County. However, they typically are within the legal weight limit for highway safety.

The roundabout at Florence is 205 feet in diameter. Some loads on Kansas highways are 200 feet long, which make them unable to fit around the 200-foot circle, Palic said. The wind turbine blades were hauled on trailers that were 160 feet long, which could not drive through the Florence roundabout.

Kansas Trucking Connection, a division of Kansas Department of Revenue, issues permits for oversize/overweight trucks and other motor carriers.

When truck companies contact KTC, they are advised of the best possible route to take to get to where they need to go.

Lambrecht said roundabouts aren't the only concern for oversized/overweight carriers.

Other issues are bridge clearances and weight restrictions.

She referred to an incident that occurred in February 2006 on I-70 near Hays when a backhoe excavator that was being transported struck an overpass.

"There are times when KDOT staff goes through and looks at bridges to determine what path trucks can go," Lambrecht said, when oversized/overweight carriers apply for permits.

Maps are available for personnel to use regarding weight loads, height and width restrictions, and road construction projects.