The Franklin Common Council voted 3-3 at its April 17, 2018 meeting to approve financing the design of a roundabout at 51st and Drexel just north of Franklin High School.
Aldermen Steve Taylor, Kristen Wilhelm and Mark Dandrea voted YES. Aldermen Dan Mayer, Mike Barber, and John Nelson voted NO.
Mayor Steve Olson then broke the tie by voting in favor.
The city will now spend $89,933.78 to have the firm R.A. Smith design a one-lane roundabout at the intersection.
The resolution presented to the council at the meeting noted that 51st and Drexel is a heavily congested intersection in Franklin. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) in its analysis of the intersection determined that a single lane roundabout design is the most appropriate solution for that location.
Prior to the vote some residents spoke in opposition.
One woman said during the citizen comment period the proposed roundabout was “too close to the high school and fire station.” She asked other residents to attend the meeting to speak out they told her it wouldn’t do any good.
“They don’t listen to us, they already have their minds made up,” she was told.
Another woman voiced concern that accidents would increase at the intersection because of a roundabout.
Mayor Olson said the issue boiled down to leadership.
“You make your decision based on what’s best for the community in the long term.”
Aware that motorists may not know how to maneuver the roundabout, including senior citizens (Claire Meadows Senior Apartments is right down the street on 51st), Olson noted that he recently traveled to Rome, drove through a roundabout there, and he was “just fine.”
Well then, I guess the entire matter is settled, right?
Olson continued with a statement I believe probably required more thought.
“Seniors complain they don’t like roundabouts. Well, how much longer are they going to drive? I’m sorry. It’s a plain fact,” said Olson.
Alderman Steve Taylor argued doing nothing is not an option and that motorists would be able to handle the roundabout.
“I think the residents of Franklin are pretty smart,” said Taylor.
Now that the design services have been approved the issue is just a formality. Next will be the actual construction that is planned to begin after the last day of school for the 2018-19 school year (June 7, 2019) with the project set for completion prior to the start of school that fall (mid-August 2019).
I don’t like roundabouts and never have, even though I know how to drive in them. I recall how the roundabouts in New Berlin caused mayhem.
I’d love to hear more concrete evidence/data that the roundabouts a) will work, although government agencies like the state DOT have always been wildly pro-roundabout and b) if this one is absolutely necessary.
Many years ago on my old blog on FranklinNOW I posted figures I received from the Franklin Police Department about accidents with a period of several years that occurred near the high school, including the 51st and Drexel intersection. The number was incredibly small, not even noteworthy. This aspect was never brought up at the meeting.
On April 17, the Common Council did what it does best. It voted to spend a lot of money that I submit could very well be unnecessary and result in less, not more safety.
And no one, no one has been more publicly supportive of Mayor Olsen than me. But his tie-breaking vote was disappointing.