At its Jan. 28 meeting, the Grand Island City Council approved a project to conduct an environmental study for possible hydrocarbon contamination at the Five Points intersection.
According to John Collins, Grand Island Public Works director, the study is part of an ongoing project that will eventually make the Five Points intersection a roundabout.
Collins described the project as one in a series of steps that will eventually pave the way for the roundabout, which is estimated to cost around $2 million.
“We have come a long way,” Collins said of the city’s ongoing efforts to improve the intersection.
Initially, he said it started out as a project to reexamine and improve the traffic conditions at Five Points.
“But it was calling for something more so we got with the Nebraska Department of Transportation and applied for and was granted safety funds,” he said.
The grant will pay for 80 percent of the project’s cost.
Collins said the NDOT study suggested a roundabout for that intersection.
“One of the things when they were doing the environmental study they found evidence that there had been a service station or something there and they wanted us to check for hydrocarbons contamination,” he said.
While hydrocarbon contamination has been detected, Collins said a specific source of the pollution was not located. The city will be doing drilling in the area to find the cause.
Collins said the reason for the remake of the Five Points intersection is that it has always been a “bit confusing” for motorists. The city begin the Five Points intersection transformation project to replace road signage and signals that were in need of replacement. He said all of the electronics had reached the end of their service line.
At first, Collins said the plan was to bring all the signals and signage and pavement up to standard, but as they were going through that process they found out that would be expensive at more than a $1 million and there still would be the prohibitions of not being able to turn left. He said because of the intersection design, the lanes are not even, and people wander into other lanes causing accidents.
“We were going to fix it, but it indicated something more, and that is where we got the state’s safety funds because the dollar amount was a lot higher than we initially thought,” Collins said.
He said the state study, done jointly with the city, indicated a roundabout would be appropriate for the intersection where Eddy Street and Broadwell Street become one, while intersecting with State Street.
Collins said an environmental clearance was required because of the use of federal money. In searching the records, they found there were some underground fuel storage tanks, which meant the probability of hydrocarbon contamination.
“It is a very old part of the city and needs to be brought up to safety standards,” he said.
Collins said the roundabout construction is scheduled in the next couple of years.
The preliminary design is done, and the final design will be completed after the environmental aspect of the project is finished.
Collins said roundabouts are gaining in popularity in the United States because of its safety features. He said France has more than 25,000 roundabouts and Britain almost as many. Collisions went down by 87% in those two countries because of the roundabout additions. In the U.S., Collins said there are about 4,000 roundabouts, including two in Grand Island.
“We will go with whatever is the safest and most efficient, whether it is a stop sign, roundabout or a traffic signal,” Collins said about Grand Island road repairs and safety.
He said a roundabout at Five Points had been looked at in the past but was abandoned because of the businesses in the area. Recent redevelopment in the area has allowed for the addition of a roundabout.
In discussing the Five Point intersection allocation, council member Mike Paulick expressed concerns about the city’s road safety priorities. He said until the city fixes the traffic problems on the Highway 281 corridor, where there have been a number of fatalities, he couldn’t support the changes at Five Points or others road improvement projects.