LYNDEN - The state has selected a contractor to build two roundabouts on the north end of Lynden before the start of the Northwest Washington Fair.
The Department of Transportation accepted a $2.15 million bid by Colacurcio Brothers Construction Company Inc. of Blaine on Thursday, Feb. 28. Work will begin in May or June on the roundabouts, about a half-mile apart on East Badger Road, at Depot Road and Bender Road.
To speed up the work, Bender Road will be closed for two weeks on the south side of Badger Road. Depot Road south of Badger will be closed for three weeks. Closure dates have not been set, but the two roads will not be closed at the same time. The closures will make it easier for the contractor to finish by the start of the fair, which begins Aug. 12.
Crews are currently working at the site to move utility lines.
Badger Road connects two other state highways, Guide Meridian and Highway 9. With 11,000 average daily trips, Badger has more traffic than the other two highways at their border crossings.
Roundabouts allow for more efficient traffic movement because they reduce backups, said Brian Walsh, DOT traffic design and operations engineer. Traffic flow on Badger is important because it is a designated freight route, the DOT said.
The roundabouts on Badger are mostly intended to reduce the frequency of serious crashes. The highway already had a bad crash record, and planning for the roundabouts had already begun, when a fatal motorcycle crash in June 2011 prompted DOT to reduce the speed limit on Badger to 45 mph.
The 26 collisions from 2007-11 on the stretch from Depot to Bender included one fatality and nine with injuries, according to crash data provided by DOT.
Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Federal Highway Administration have shown that roundabouts reduce injury collisions by 75 percent and fatalities by 90 percent, the DOT said.
"It's hard to get into a really serious crash at 15 mph," Walsh said.
Although DOT engineers weigh roundabouts and traffic signals equally, Walsh said, roundabouts have become their method of choice for controlling intersections.
The agency built four roundabouts on Guide Meridian in 2009, even taking out a traffic signal at Pole Road.
"There's been a lot less delay at Pole Road," Walsh said.
Two roundabouts were built on Mount Baker Highway in 2011.
Currently, the state has about 245 roundabouts "on the ground," Walsh said.
"The world's transforming a little bit," he said. "In the last 15 years nationally, we've seen more looking at roundabouts, for safety primarily ... better operations and less delay in many of the locations."
Federal money will fully pay for the Badger Road project. The $8 million is from a fund that must be dedicated to projects near the U.S./Canada border, according to DOT.
WSDOT PROJECT PAGE: Click here.