Staff Columnist

Should Marion aspire to circular supremacy?

The new roundabout on the 35th Street extension in northeast Marion is decorated by artwork of steel cornstalks.
The new roundabout on the 35th Street extension in northeast Marion is decorated by artwork of steel cornstalks.

A couple more roundabouts are on the drawing board in Marion. And that made me wonder, could it be Iowa’s roundabout capital?

Sadly, no. But don’t give up hope.

Marion currently is home to five roundabouts — two on Tower Terrace Road at Alburnett Road and 35th Street, home of the awesome “Cornhenge” sculpture, one near downtown at Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street, another at Seventh Avenue and 27th Street and the “mini” roundabout in my neighborhood at 29th Avenue and 35th Street.

Works like a charm. Although I have dubbed it “The Groceries Dumper.”

Another roundabout is under construction at Sixth Avenue and 15th Street. The council was briefed on state-funded Traffic Engineering Assistance Program studies on two more last week: a possible “mini” at Tenth Street and Central Avenue, near the Granger House, and a full roundabout at Eighth Avenue and Lindale, near the Lindale bike trail and Casey’s.

Aaron Granquist, with HR Green engineers, said those roundabouts generally would improve safe traffic flow through the intersections.

“The city of Marion, to some extent, has embraced roundabouts,” Granquist said. Yes, yes it has.

So the council is moving ahead with an application for state Traffic Safety Improvement Program bucks to help pay for the Tenth and Central roundabout plan. Eighth and Lindale will have to wait for a later funding cycle. But all told, eight roundabouts are done, under construction or on the table.

But a roundabout gap remains. According to Iowa Department of Transportation Safety Engineer Jan Laaser-Webb, Coralville and the Des Moines suburb of Johnston have 10 roundabouts each.

Iowa, the DOT reports, had 62 total roundabouts as of 2016. Many have received TSIP funding, to the tune of $4.2 million since 2011, in round figures.

Now, we can go around and ‘round about whether we should aspire to statewide circular supremacy. Roundabouts still do not sit entirely well with a segment of Marion residents. Vocal opposition has been lowered to a dull grumble, it seems. Shaking fists have been downgraded to strong eye-rolls.

We have adapted. It’s been hard work. OK, maybe not. But after all the angst, why not aspire to be No. 1? If you can’t beat them, or navigate them, join them.

“Reach Higher,” I say.

In fact, we could retire “Reach Higher” as a city brand in favor of something more appropriate, such as “The Right Place to Yield Left,” “Doughnut Make You Love Marion?” or simply “Get Here. Get Dizzy!”

“Come to Marion. Stick Around?”

“Marion — A Well-Rounded Community?”

“Marion — a Centripetal Force?”

OK, I’ll stop.

And roundabouts could become “Bragabouts,” with a point of civic pride displayed in each traffic circle. Hey, maybe the famous Cherry Sisters could get a roundabout, since I realized, the hard way, they’re not welcome in the Uptown art alley.

All my swell ideas, also known as forgetabouts.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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