A city bus maneuvers the new roundabout intersection at Mount Werner Circle and AprÃs Ski Way on Tuesday.

Photo by Matt Stensland

A city bus maneuvers the new roundabout intersection at Mount Werner Circle and AprÃs Ski Way on Tuesday.

Bumpy ride for buses

Engineers addressing roundabout's tight turning radius

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— City bus drivers are adapting to the new traffic roundabout intersection at Mount Werner Circle and AprÃs Ski Way.

"It took a couple of trips, but most of the drivers are able to get through without any problem," Steamboat Springs Transit Operations Manager Jonathon Flint said Tuesday.

The roundabout being developed by the Steamboat Springs Urban Renewal Authority at the base of Steamboat Ski Area isn't due to be completed until September. But the east half of the circular intersection is sufficiently complete to allow traffic destined for Ski Time Square and resort hotels in the area.

Flint said the roundabout will be easier for the city's 30- and 35-foot-long buses to negotiate once a second lift of asphalt is poured. Right now, the single course of asphalt leaves a concrete lip at the circular median in the center of the intersection. The left front tires of the buses are prone to rubbing on the lip.

"The second lift of asphalt will give us another 18 to 20 inches of turning room" when the curb and gutter come into play, Flint said.

Urban Renewal Authority Project Manager Joe Kracum said engineers designing the roundabout took the turning movements of buses into account when they designed it and used some high-tech tools to optimize the circular roadway. The old intersection caused cars, trucks and buses turning right from Apres Ski Way onto Mount Werner Circle to come to a complete stop on a steep, often icy grade.

"We reduced the grade as much as we could while accounting for the grades at other points of entry," Kracum said.

A completed roundabout in Ski Time Square has fewer grade issues, allowing designers to replicate it in a parking lot and test its design with actual vehicles.

The complexity of the design for AprÃs Ski Way led designers to use simulation software called AutoTURN.

The measures taken to accommodate buses and delivery trucks include mountable curbs, Kracum said. The bevel on the rims of the curbs is tapered to allow vehicles to ride over them with less of a jolt.

When construction is complete, bus drivers also will be able to extend the bumper of their buses over the center median to make the turns easier, Flint said.

"Because the wheels are behind the driver, we can extend our nose over the curb," he said. "Construction barriers prevent us from doing that right now."

SST's operations manager already envisions a different strategy for the city's over-the-road buses that ferry commuters back and forth between Steamboat and Craig. Those buses are 45 feet long. Drivers will enter the roundabout and make a full circle, allowing them more room in which to align their buses with the entrance to Mount Werner Circle on their way to the Gondola Transit Center.

Kracum said he is aware that the new roundabout is the object of public curiosity and that based on his experiences in other mountain towns, predicted the public would adapt to it quickly.

"In Aspen there were a lot of letters to the editor predicting it would never work," Kracum said. "The day we opened it, the letters stopped."

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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