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WBAY-TV - Green Bay, Wisconsin
By Adam Aaro
February 17, 2009
Green Bay's City Council agreed to revisit the issue of roundabouts on Military Avenue -- but despite a public outcry and a marathon council meeting that went past 2 o'clock Tuesday morning, no minds on the council were changed.
The same council members split 7-5 earlier this month to approve the plan to reduce a stretch of Military Avenue from six to four lanes and install roundabouts instead of traffic signals. That was despite a 2-1 recommendation from a city council committee to reduce Military Avenue to four lanes but use traffic lights.
Alderman Tom Weber voted for the roundabouts but asked the council to reconsider the vote to make sure the public's input is considered.
Several businesses along the affected stretch of Military Avenue are petitioning, saying they're afraid roundabouts will scare customers away.
A new twist in the issue: A lawyer who specializes in representing people with disabilities has now joined the debate, and he argues roundabouts designed for Military Avenue are impossible for blind people and other pedestrians with disabilities to use.
He says if the roundabouts are approved as-is, he's prepared to explore taking the issue to federal court.
"You'd have to actually argue in federal court that disabled people don't have the right to cross the street, and I just can't imagine that you as a council would want to be nationally known as a city that's arguing that disabled people aren't welcome in your community and shouldn't have the right to cross the street, but that's the argument you'd have to make," attorney Richard Bernstein told the council.
Bernstein says he's taken a Michigan county to federal court over roundabouts as well because he claims they violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He was just one of a majority of public speakers who spoke out against roundabouts during the public comment portion of the council meeting. Among them were members of the Military Avenue Business Association.
A former Brown County sheriff's deputy spoke up in favor of roundabouts. He said he was involved in a serious crash at an intersection on Military Avenue while responding to an incident several years ago.
"But I do believe that if a roundabout was at that intersection, three people -- including myself, but two very seriously injured -- would not have gone to the hospital that day, would not have been injured, and many people's lives and injuries would have been saved," former deputy Craig Huxford said.
Transportation officials say roundabouts keep traffic flowing more smoothly than traffic signals, but slow drivers down and avoid the "T-bone" crashes associated with more serious and fatal crashes. They also argue that roundabouts provide an island so pedestrians only cross half the lanes of traffic at a time, making roundabouts inherently safer.
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