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Roundabout possible for Nature Heights Extension Project

Roundabout possible for Nature Heights Extension Project

The Nature Heights Extension Project will connect Nature Heights Drive with Park Ridge Drive and Mormon Mill Road at an intersection. The overall cost of the project is estimated to be anywhere from $9.5 million to $10 million. Courtesy image

A roundabout could be placed at the future intersection of Nature Heights Drive, Park Ridge Drive, and Mormon Mill Road in Marble Falls. The Nature Heights Extension Project connecting the three roads is part of an effort to ease traffic congestion in the city. Construction could cost between $9.5 million and $10 million, with $500,000 of that for a roundabout.

The roundabout’s design will cost about $50,000. The Marble Falls City Council approved that expenditure at its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 7, but did not decide if it is the best way to handle the intersection. 

A roundabout directs traffic in a circle. Vehicles can choose an exit street without having to stop first at either a stop sign or a traffic light. Roundabouts first became popular in France after they were invented by Eugene Henard in 1877. They are used extensively in Washington, D.C., which was laid out by French architect and engineer Pierre L’Enfant.

Whether or not to move forward with installing a roundabout will come before the council at a later date, City Manager Mike Hodge confirmed with

City engineer Jeff Prato presented the case for a roundabout to the council.

“From a safety perspective, roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections,” said Prato, adding that they are perfect for high-volume areas. “Cars in a multi-way stop or a synchronized-signal intersection have to stop. In a roundabout, depending on the flow, they can maintain their travel speed. Roundabouts function a lot better when you have traffic coming from two different directions or all directions.”

If the city were to move forward with a roundabout, officials would need to purchase additional right-of-way on the south side of the intersection. Prato estimates that cost to be roughly $50,000. 

Councilor Bryan Walker argued for the council to consider a different approach.

“Why does it have to be a four-way stop and not a cross-traffic stop like it currently is?” he asked.

Since the extension project will create a new roadway with unknown traffic patterns and needs, a traffic study most likely will be necessary, Prato responded.

“The question is, well, it’s a newly constructed roadway, how do we know what the vehicle traffic is?” he said. “They would generate that based on a traffic study based on trip generations, and they would determine if it meets particular warrants. We’d have to go through that exercise.”

Mayor Richard Westerman reminded councilors of the danger of failing to listen to city engineers on traffic issues, specifically referencing a previous council’s decision to alter plans for the Mission Hill-Mormon Mill intersection in the 1990s. 

“The intersection was heavily influenced by council and not the engineers,” Westerman said. “What we have there today is because of council, and I would hate to make those decisions and go against the value that the engineers bring to the table.”

The Mission Hill-Mormon Mill intersection with U.S. 281 involves a confusing cross-section of traffic that is widely unpopular.

Councilors voted to approve the additional services by a 6-1 vote with Walker voting against.

“I don’t want to spend $50,000 on designing something that I think a majority of people here don’t want to see,” Walker said.

2 thoughts on “Roundabout possible for Nature Heights Extension Project

  1. Having lived in Germany for three years and experiencing roundabouts throughout Europe, I am very much in favor of the roundabout system.

  2. Walker needs to listen to the actual engineers. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Traffic circles are proving their worth throughout other cities in Texas. There are studies which prove their effectiveness in maintaining a good traffic flow AND ensuring folks aren’t speeding through these areas.

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