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Here we go ‘round again – BE plans more roundabouts

By Staff | Mar 30, 2014

Traffic circles are being used more frequently to reduce accidents at intersections. Here is an artist rendering of how the mini-traffic circles would look in Blue Earth, with 10-foot-tall Sprouts in the center of each one.

While Blue Earth has now become well known as the city with three roundabouts, it could soon become the city with six mini-traffic circles.

A plan released this week by the Faribault County Engineer’s office for the reconstruction of two blocks of Main Street includes three miniature roundabouts.

“They are not actually roundabouts,” county engineer John McDonald says. “The proper term is ‘mini-traffic circles.’ They are more for a decorative look than for traffic control.”

In fact, four-way stop signs are still required at the intersections. However, engineers refer to them as “traffic calmers” and they help reduce accidents at intersections, McDonald says.

The idea was first proposed by Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute when he visited Blue Earth in July 2010.

Above is a sketch of one of the larger Sprout statues which will actually be designed as playground equipment and placed in each of the vacant lots in downtown Blue Earth.

Burden’s plan for downtown Blue Earth included the mini-traffic circle idea, which he suggested could be one by the courthouse and another at Main and 14th streets (by the pool).

“We liked the idea,” says Dar Holmseth of the Active Living Coalition, the group which sponsored Burden’s visit four years ago. “So we proposed it to the planning committee for the downtown Main Street construction.”

That group incorporated the idea into the plan for the two block area which will be reconstructed next summer in 2015 and submitted it to the county engineer.

The plan includes a mini-circle in the center of the intersections of Main and Fifth, Main and Sixth and Main and Seventh.

“This is so exciting,” says Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce director Cindy Lyon. “We have several ideas for what to have in the center of the little roundabouts.”

Lyon says the Chamber wants to have three different statues of the Little Sprout, welcoming people to downtown Blue Earth.

“We thought about statues of the Giant, but we didn’t want to detract from the giant one we already have,” Lyon says. “We think the Sprout will be perfect.”

Lyon says she is getting quotes from two firms, one in Buffalo and the other in Sparta, Wis., for having the Sprout statues constructed out of fiberglass.

“We want to have them at least 10 feet tall,” Lyon says. “And we want them to be wearing ball caps, to promote Blue Earth as the home of the world’s largest cap collection.”

McDonald says his department is in charge of the downtown street reconstruction project, because Main Street is a county/state aid highway.

“We will build the mini-traffic circles, but it is up to the city to decide what to have in them,” he says. “And the city has to plow snow around them.”

That could be an issue, as Public Works Supervisor Jamie Holland says the traffic circles would be in the way of the snow blower loading the trucks after the snow is windrowed to the center of the street.

“It’s bad enough we have big roundabouts, now we have to put up with little ones, too,” he says.

The new plans for downtown also include having giant 35-foot long green footprints as part of the paved street surface of each of the two blocks being rebuilt next summer.

Lyon says it was her suggestion so that it will appear the Giant has walked downtown and stepped over the three new miniature roundabouts.

And, the county engineer says he was happy to incorporate the footprint idea.

“We don’t yet know if we will use green paver bricks for that or green black top,” McDonald says. “But it should not be a problem.”

Also in the plan are smaller green footprints in the crosswalks, indicating the Sprout has walked by.

The downtown plan also calls for much larger Sprout statues in each of the vacant lots in the downtown area. These statues will actually be pieces of playground equipment for children to play on.

Lyon says the Chamber also has plans to paint giant hand prints on the walls of all the downtown buildings, too.

Some readers might be thinking this could all be some sort of made up story for April Fools Day. And, they might be right. But only partially correct.

Some parts of this story are true, such as Dan Burden’s plan for mini-circles and the chamber wanting to have Sprout statues and giant footprints.

However, there is no county engineer plan to incorporate three mini-traffic circles, Sprout statues or 35-foot long Giant green paver block footprints in the middle of the new Main Street.

But, wouldn’t it be totally cool if there was?