If the Bozeman City Commission approves a contract Monday to build a roundabout near the Montana State University campus at College Street and 11th Avenue, drivers could begin using it as early as this fall, City Manager Chris Kukulski said.

The intersection is currently controlled with a four-way stop. But it could be home to a 130-foot-wide roundabout with an MSU sign and landscaping that mark an entrance to the university.

The commission in 2008 backed the idea of installing a roundabout rather than a traffic signal at the intersection. But commissioners later got concerned about the cost in January 2009 and delayed signing a contract for the work.

This Monday, the commission will take up a contract proposal again.

"It's an intersection that needs to be upgraded," Kukulski said Thursday during the city's weekly news conference at City Hall.

The roundabout is estimated to cost $936,227 and be funded by street impact fees. The city collects impact fees from developers on new construction to pay for growth.

City staff are recommending that the commission move forward with the roundabout, but commissioners could opt to change their minds altogether about building it and decide to put up a traffic light instead.

"The estimated expense to complete a signal is significantly less than a roundabout," states a memo to the commission from city engineering and finance department staff.

Proponents argue roundabouts can carry more traffic with less delay than traffic signals, because traffic moves continuously.

But some motorists and bicyclists say roundabouts are too small for large trucks and actually cause traffic backups because drivers are unfamiliar with them.

Putting in a traffic signal would cost an estimated $436,000, according to the memo.

However, that's the cost up front.

When the commission opted to go with the idea of the roundabout two years ago, a representative from the engineering company hired to research the two options told them the roundabout was cheaper in the long run.

The roundabout was expected to come with a $700,000 initial price tag, but cost $916,000 over 15 years, taking into account maintenance costs. The traffic signal was expected to cost $440,000 initial cost, but would cost $1.08 million over 15 years.

On Monday, the commission will consider spending $154,050 to buy 11,660 square feet of property right-of-way at the intersection needed to make room for the roundabout, according to the memo.

Montana State University owns the property on two corners of the intersection and NorthWestern Energy and Columbo's Pizza & Pasta also each own a corner.

MSU plans to build a themed campus entrance with a sign and landscaping on the roundabout island in exchange for selling the right-of-way to the city for $54,670 less than its $207,720 appraised value, the memo states.

The commission meets at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 121 N. Rouse Ave. Meetings are televised live on Bresnan's channel 20.

Amanda Ricker can be reached at aricker@dailychronicle.com or 582-2628.



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