In roundabout vs. traffic light, Gig Harbor Council leans toward the light

Anecdotal evidence trumped data Monday, as the Gig Harbor City Council voted 4-3 to seek a traffic light instead of a roundabout at the intersection of Harborview Drive and Stinson Avenue downtown.

Although roundabouts have statistically a higher safety rating than traffic signals, the majority of council felt anecdotal evidence showed roundabouts are not the safest option.

Council Member Spencer Hutchins, who was in support of traffic signals, said pedestrian safety is huge, and Harborview is a highly populated pedestrian area. He believes the statistics that show roundabouts reducing pedestrian accidents are misleading, as pedestrians typically don’t walk across roundabouts as they feel it is unsafe, thus leading to a reduction in pedestrian accidents.

“Roundabouts will be more dangerous to cross for a family, so they will opt to not use the pedestrian crossing,” Hutchins said.

Council member Bob Himes disagreed, saying large datasets have shown roundabouts typically receive a 75 percent reduction in injury collisions and a 90 percent decrease in fatality collisions.

“When you get a car in a roundabout the relative speed is so reduced, vehicle to vehicle, that even if there is a fender bender, you won’t get a dead body,” Himes said.

He feels these statistics should outweigh any anecdotal evidence.

“Probability and statistics were invented to get away from anecdotal, emotional comments to sway decisions,” Himes said.

Jarratt Mowery, who owns a home right next to Harborview/Stinson, spoke to council, saying he felt a traffic signal would be safer than a roundabout, both for him and pedestrians.

“Either of these options are better than the status quo,” Mowery added.

The council resolution directed staff to apply to the state Transportation Improvement Board for a grant to finance the project. If the application is successful, grant monies would be available for use as early as the end of the year., staff said. This city’s project is estimated to cost $1,040,000.

Mayor Kit Kuhn was absent on vacation and council member Spencer Abersold participated through phone speaker.. Council member Jim Franich filled in for Kuhn.

In other business, the city council:

  • Heard Franich read a statement by Kuhn, regarding the city administrator position. Kuhn said “over the next few months we will be conducting a search to find a new city administrator. During this transition period it is priority to find the best individual to lead while maintaining a stable and effective organization.” City administrator Wade Farris resigned in July after he was accused of disparate treatment of women employees.

  • Approved changes in the size and terms for the city’s advisory boards resulting from a lengthy discussion during the July 22 city council meeting. Changes include a reduction in members for the Building Code Advisory Board and an increase in members for the Lodging Tax Advisory Board. Members of the Parks Commission, Planning Commission and Salary Commission will now be required to be city residents.

  • Authorized the staff to submit a grant application to the state Transportation Improvement Board for a roundabout at the intersection of Rosedale Street and Stinson Avenue. This project consists of construction of a mini-roundabout, pedestrian improvements, curb, gutter, planter strips, sidewalks, street illumination and utility improvements. The total cost of the project is $543,000.

  • Authorized the mayor to execute a Public Works Contract with South Tacoma Glass Inc. for installation of a bullet-resistant system at the Municipal Court front counter at the Civic Center. This amount would not exceed $34,794.62 and will be paid for through general funding.

  • Established an emergency and authorized the Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent to execute a $10,358 contract for the repair of a gravity sewer main in 96th Street. Trenchless Pipe Repairs LLC. will remove an improperly bored side sewer blocking the pipe and causing overflow.

  • Canceled the scheduled August 26 city council meeting..