A creative solution to a traffic snarl

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, February 11, 2021

BY PETE KOUTOULAS

Sun Columnist

Something needs to be done about the intersection of Colby Road and McClure Road. This junction, about a block off the Bypass near Kentucky Bank and Walgreens, can become quite congested during busy traffic hours.

Currently, only traffic approaching from McClure must stop at the intersection, and there is no left turn lane. This means if you get behind someone attempting to turn left onto Colby when traffic is heavy, you could be waiting a long time.

I can think of a few low-cost solutions to this traffic problem — and one very cool solution.

Probably the cheapest and most straightforward answer would be to simply make the crossing a three-way stop. Everyone would wait their turn. This would help drivers needing to turn left but would slow the flow of through traffic on Colby.

Another possible solution would be to widen McClure at the approach and create a left turn lane. There is already a left turn lane on Colby, and it helps to keep the traffic flowing. It would accomplish the same thing on McClure, as right turns can be made even in moving traffic if there is a sufficient gap. But this still wouldn’t help those drivers waiting to turn left onto Colby.

Then there is the “nuclear option” — a traffic light. I doubt there is enough volume at this location to warrant a light, and it’s probably not the best option anyway. I’m not a big fan of throwing up traffic signals all over town.

As I said, something must be done. Perhaps we need to look for more creative answers.

Since both Colby Road and McClure Road are owned and maintained by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, it is up to the state Transportation Cabinet to decide what changes need to be made at this junction. But local citizens and leaders can have an influence on these decisions, as has been demonstrated recently.

Local outcry over the dire situation with heavy truck traffic in the residential Seventh Street area has finally spurred state officials to greenlight a project to extend that street and create a more direct access route for heavy trucks traveling to and from Paris Road and I-64.

Similarly, local officials have pushed to complete the Fulton Road project, which would connect the two segments of that street and provide better access between downtown and the west side. This, too, seems to be gaining traction.

So if enough people are concerned about Colby and McClure’s intersection, we could spur the state to act.

Now for my dream scenario: why not install a roundabout?

These traffic devices — also known as traffic circles — have been in use for centuries in Europe and other parts of the world. A few notable early examples in the U.S. include Columbus Circle in New York, Monument Circle in Indianapolis and several in Washington, D.C.

But roundabouts are not just for major intersections in big cities.

So-called modern roundabouts came about in the 1960s in England and soon spread. Modern roundabouts are marked by priority rules that govern the flow of traffic and well-marked entry and exit points. They can be very large or very small and handle varying rates of traffic flow.

Kentucky has even gotten into the act. There are roundabouts to be found in most larger cities, including Lexington, which has at least four that I know of. But smaller cities like Bowling Green, London, Newport and Danville have gotten in on the act. Initial resistance has fallen away as people have become accustomed to the improved flow of roundabouts.

Roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections. They keep traffic flowing better than either all-way stops or traffic signals. And they are better for pedestrian crossings because people on foot only need to look one way to see oncoming traffic, rather than potentially three ways.

So, is the intersection of Colby and McClure a suitable candidate for a roundabout installation? I’m no expert, but I think it is.

I have another related idea that would improve traffic flow in this part of town. In addition to the roundabout, McClure could be extended about 360 feet to intersect with April Way near Puerta Grande and Shell mart. Currently, this property is undeveloped. By adding this extension and the roundabout, traffic between the hundreds of homes in the McClure corridor and the shopping area around Walmart could move much better, without the need to enter the Bypass.

All this will probably never come to pass. Government moves slowly, and opportunities such as this don’t last forever. The undeveloped land mentioned above was recently graded and placed on the market. It’s likely to be developed long before a project like this could come to fruition.

But I did say this was a dream scenario, didn’t I? Nothing wrong with dreaming big.