Traffic plan hits roadblock in Odessa

Folks with other ideas say no to a roundabout at a busy intersection.

By Jackie Ripley, Times Staff Writer
Published February 23, 2008

KEYSTONE - Roundabouts might work in suburbs and they might work in cities. But never, say some Odessa residents, will roundabouts work in the country.

"We fought hard to keep this place rural," said Buddy Rawls, a cattle rancher who has lived in Odessa for 50 years. "Now you're going to spend a lot of tax dollars to bring this silly thing here. We don't need it. We don't need to citify."

And so it went during a meeting Thursday night at the Keystone Recreation Center.

County engineers and county-hired consultants got more than they were expecting:Not only did most of the people there say "no way" to a roundabout, a few went one better.

They reworked the engineers' drawings, showing how the intersection of Boy Scout and Race Track roads could be improved without the confusion of a roundabout and without spending $900,000.

"I've been in the county for 17 years and I've never seen a group so extremely smart and extremely educated," said Sam Halabi, project engineer for the county.

But Halabi also told the group, "we can't leave the intersection as it is. We know it's unsafe."

Consultants with Arcadis U.S. Inc., said there were 42 accidents in the area between 2002 and 2006. Thirty-two occurred on Race Track and 10 on Boy Scout.

This is the second time the county has tried to convince the community that a roundabout is the safest option. Odessa still wasn't buying.

Drivers unfamiliar with roundabouts "approach them like a deer in the headlights," said Brian Walsh, who lives in Odessa but drove on roundabouts in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Leavengood lives in Clearwater Beach but has a horse barn in Odessa. When she pulls her horse trailer, she said she wants to know people are going to stop at the intersection and not keep going through a roundabout.

"It's a disaster in Clearwater," Leavengood said. "I believe it would be a disaster in Odessa."

Halabi told the group he would relay their comments to his boss and there would be another meeting.

One more thing, the Odessa residents said: Don't waste your money on landscaping. Plain old grass will do fine.

Jackie Ripley can be reached at ripley@sptimes com or 813 269-5308.