When the dusts of construction and controversy settled, travelers through Wellington's busiest intersection, 15th and A, were greeted with a brand new roundabout. The traffic circled opened fully Nov. 18, 2011, between then and now the roundabout has been operating just as the City of Wellington anticipated.
"Now one year later, I think for the most part it has accomplished what what the State of Kansas and the City of Wellington staff and governing body thought it would do," said Gus Collins, Wellington City Manager. "It has reduced our operating cost...it has reduced the number of vehicle accidents almost to nil." In the four years leading up to the opening of the roundabout, the intersection at 15th and A witnessed an average of nearly 12 "significant" vehicle accidents or crashes.
The numbers are in for the past year, and can be misleading without explanation. Over the last year, there were 15 "crashes" reported at 15th and A, which may appear to be an increase. But a crash is classified as anything involving a vehicle, even if that means a vehicle hit a road sign. Car verses road signs make up almost all of those 15 reported crashes.
"One has been an automobile rear-end, the rest of them have been the signage," Collins explained. "We report those as a crash...I think those will be reduced, hopefully eliminated because there was a learning curve initially." Most of the signs were taken out by oversized transports.
"The objective was to eliminate the severe crashes, and we've had none," Collins said. There was some noticeable growing pains early on.
An unknown, presumably large vehicle tore through the center portion of the roundabout. A good amount of sod was pulled up and dragged by the vehicle's tires on Nov. 22 of last year.
It hasn't just been motorist who've been affected by the changes at 15th and A. A handful of businesses have endured a lot, especially through the construction phases, and then adjusting to life with the roundabout. A couple of businesses didn't want to see the roundabout go in.
"We were against it at the time, we felt that the intersection was fine the way it was," said Shane Carroll, of Carroll Glass and Pig Shack BBQ, 1102 N. A. "It's pretty obvious right now that it works alright." Though Carroll did say the traffic circle isn't big enough for large trucks, and the roundabout has affected several of the businesses entry ways.
Once the construction ended, Carroll said business slowly began getting back to normal.
"It affected business through the construction, it probably cut us 50 percent," he elaborated. "When you lose customers, it takes awhile to get customers back." The project cost $1.7 million, $170,000 was picked up by the City, the rest by the Kansas Department of Transportation. Based on the reduction of severe traffic accidents, so far it appears to be money well spent.
Page 2 of 2 - "It has accomplished what we anticipated," Collins reiterated.
"Overall, I think it turned out a little better than I thought it would, I think than we all thought it would," Carroll said.