A new rotary intersection has won the hearts of Sheboygan's (Wisconsin) citizens along
with recognition as Public Works Project of the Year for 1996 from the American Public
Works Association. The oval-shaped rotary handles traffic from 8th Street, Indiana
Avenue, and Water Street and accommodates a railroad track. The new intersection
also helps beautify the entrance to a redeveloping harbor area.
"With plans to convert land in the old harbor to residential and commercial uses, we
project significantly more traffic on Water Street which entered 8th Street about 150 feet
north of the Indiana Avenue intersection," says Dave Biebel, Deputy Director for Public
works in Sheboygan. "More traffic would backlog the intersection severely, and we
couldn't solve the problem with signals." Traffic counts in 1994 were 16,200 ADT with an
increase to 23,800 projected by 2015. That makes this a major intersection in a city with
about 50,000 population.
The city, its engineering consultants, and adjoining businesses looked at many
alternatives. They concluded that the modified rotary design would work best to
accommodate the fifth leg of the intersection.
The rotary opened in September 1995. Traffic flows smoothly through the oval which is
240 by 140 feet. There are never less than two lanes on the circle, which, along with
multi-lane entrance and exit ramps, expands capacity. Stop or Yield signs control
vehicles entering all legs of the circle while traffic on the circle has the right of way.
Department of Public Works staff worked hard to involve and educate the adjacent
property owners, members of a downtown business improvement district, and the
general public. Speeches to civic groups, along with early and frequent news media
contact, were important to encourage a positive attitude to the unusual design.
"During the time we were planning and building it, people were saying, 'It will never
work,'" says Biebel. "Now it's installed and operating very effectively--more than even
we in the department expected. Some drivers actually go out of their way to take a field
trip onto it."
The project was recognized by the American Public Works Association for its esthetic
appeal and innovative planning. The project had to meet stringent time deadlines relating
to the opening of a newly constructed 8th Street bridge and also included a contaminated
soils cleanup which required complex coordination among multiple consultants and state
"We would seriously consider doing another one," says Biebel. "It's a specialty design
and there are very few places where it is warranted, but it is an effective solution where
it is warranted."
(Reprinted with permission from the Spring 1997 "Crossroads," newsletter of the
Transportation Information Center at the University of Wisconsin--Madison)