Medford City Council awarded a $316,954 contract Thursday to Kittleson and Associates Inc. to study both a traffic signal and three roundabout designs at the accident-prone intersection of Crater Lake Avenue and Owen Drive.
"It's no secret that Public Works likes roundabouts, but they don't work everywhere," said Cory Crebbin, director of Medford Public Works.
City Council voted 6-1 in favor of the contract, with Councilor Tim Jackle, a lawyer, abstaining because of conflicts — he represents many of the surrounding property owners.
The cost to build a roundabout, in addition to the Kittleson contract, is estimated at $1.25 million compared to $400,000 for a traffic signal.
For $35,000 of the contract amount, Kittleson will spend up to four months analyzing whether a roundabout at the intersection will handle traffic better than a signal and report back to the council.
If the council decides it wants a traffic signal, the Kittleson contract would be $213,000, but if the council approves a roundabout design, then it would be the full $316,954. The design and engineering phase would take another six months.
"A roundabout is a more expensive design," said Karl MacNair, Public Works transportation manager.
The intersection currently has stop signs on Crater Lake Avenue. Motorists are finding it difficult to cross Owen Drive, which has four lanes and a left-turn lane.
A 2016 analysis of the intersection found it exceeded five traffic accidents in a 12-month period, which gives it a poor rating according to city standards.
The number of accidents justifies a new intersection, but traffic volume is still considered below the threshold for a new intersection. Ongoing development to the east is expected to push traffic volumes to levels that would require a signal or roundabout.
Councilor Tim D'Alessandro said he wondered whether traffic would back up to Crater Lake Highway depending on what kind of intersection would be put in at Owen and Crater Lake Avenue. The distance between the two intersections is about 500 feet.
Crebbin said roundabouts generally keep traffic flowing, and traffic signals can cause long queues, but the analysis by Kittleson will determine which intersection would work better.
Councilor Dick Gordon said he wondered why Public Works doesn't just seek a $35,000 contract with Kittleson, and then later consider a separate contract to design and engineer the intersection chosen by the council.
Crebbin said Public Works is trying to accomplish more projects, so it's trying to line up one contract to handle each project from start to finish. He said seeking new contracts for each phase would take more time.
Public Works has budgeted $1,560,000 to build a new intersection at Crater Lake and Owen.