A roundabout for Howard and Chestnut Streets?

The corner of Howard and East Chestnut Streets, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

The city of Walla Walla will pay contractor PBS Engineering and Environmental $106,540 for, among other things, design of a compact roundabout at the intersection of Howard and Chestnut streets, considered to be the “worst intersection” in the city.

The Walla Walla City Council voted Wednesday, Nov. 17, to amend their original contract with PBS for design of the Howard and Chestnut Intersection Improvement Project. Construction of the project, scheduled for 2026, is expected to cost $1.1 million.

PBS was originally contracted this summer to consider alternative solutions for the intersection, which is considered to have the worst level of service in the city of Walla Walla, said Mike Laughery, interim public works operations manager for the city.

“It was up there at the top three (worst), but now we have corrected the Ninth plaza and the Third and Tietan intersection, so now we’re left with this one,” Laughery said.

Chestnut Street does not intersect straight across Howard Street and is offset on either side by about 50 feet. This means that a driver traveling either direction on Chestnut Street that wants to continue on Chestnut Street is forced to turn left onto Howard Street before immediately turning right. Since Chestnut Street is controlled by stop signs, this often creates significant delays for commuters on that road during high traffic.

PBS considered a compact roundabout versus a four-way stop, but determined the roundabout scored highest across cost, safety and other metrics. The engineering firm presented a sketch of a possible roundabout in that intersection in August, though the final design may be even more compact in order to reduce the amount of neighboring private property that would need to be purchased, Laughery said Wednesday.

The small size of the roundabout did cause concern for some council members. Council member Steve Moss expressed concerns at the compactness of the roundabout design, which would give drivers entering the circle less time to merge during times of congestion at the intersection.

Council member Myron Huie asked Laughery whether a “mini roundabout,” like the one located at the intersection of Third Avenue and Tietan Street, had more car accidents than larger ones located elsewhere in the city. Laughery stated that he did not know and that it would be difficult to study the issue.

Council member Yazmin Bahena acknowledged the concerns of her fellow councilors, but defended the decision to move forward with a smaller design.

“I understand why we would use a compact one on Howard, because we have to think about the right of way and people’s personal property, not to mention the trees that may be gone,” Bayana said. “You have to be mindful of everything.”

In addition to design of the roundabout, the contract amendment will pay for PBS to conduct a topographic survey, develop legal descriptions and exhibits for right of way acquisition, design illumination in the intersection, design signage and striping, and meet with property owners adjacent to the project. In all, the contract accounts for 692 hours of labor at an average of $154 per hour.

The contract does not include right-of-way-acquisition services. Once PBS has designed the roundabout and impacts on adjacent properties has been determined, the city could then seek those additional services from PBS, Laughery said Wednesday.

Emry Dinman can be reached at emrydinman@wwub.com or 425-941-5829.

Reporter covering agriculture, Walla Walla city and county government, and other topics.

(1) comment

PUGMOM3

Hmm. It's hardly the worst! But that little zig zag to get across is a problem

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