Rounding the curves

Margaret Allen
Drivers on Friday drove the new west side lanes of the hourglass roundabout at 32nd and 33rd streets, which Smoky Hill Construction opened Thursday.

It’s half a roundabout, sort of.

Hays drivers are getting a taste of the city’s first roundabout, an hourglass under construction at Vine Street, and extending from 32nd to 33rd streets.

If Friday morning was any indication, travelers were having no trouble navigating the gentle double curves.

The two lanes of brand new concrete pavement are the west half of the roundabout, which is one of four planned as part of the $13.2 million reconstruction of Vine Street.

The city opened the just completed west half on Thursday for Smoky Hill Construction, Salina, to begin construction on the east half of the roundabout.

Lanes on the east side of Vine in that area are now closed and being dug up, and again traffic is detoured to one lane each direction, this time on the new pavement.

The first roundabout should be completed in early December, said John Braun, project manager for the city of Hays during a press briefing Tuesday at City Hall, 1507 Main.

Braun’s advice for drivers, “Just stay between the cones,” he said, “don’t cross the yellow lines.”

Also under construction is a splitter island, a raised median in the middle of the hourglass. It will sit six inches tall, ultimately splitting the east- and westbound lanes of the roundabout.

Braun described it as an all-concrete structure, about 6-8 feet wide.

“It actually has a little opening for a pedestrian crossing to go through that,” Braun said. Around it will be red pavement, a 12- to 15-foot wide truck apron built to withstand heavy loads.

“It’s wide enough that if a large semi comes through and their back wheels on the trailer don’t quite make that curve they can go onto that, or if say a wind tower is coming through, they’re going to be driving on that truck apron,” Braun said. “It does have a three-inch curb, so your normal passenger cars wouldn’t really want to drive up onto there, and it’s visually offset with the different color. So driving through with a normal car, you wouldn’t be getting on to that truck apron.”

Other changes:

— With the latest change, no left turns are allowed from that area of Vine Street, so the temporary traffic signals that were in place have been removed.

— 32nd street traffic onto Vine is westbound only now to allow for construction of the splitter island.

— Eastbound 32nd Street traffic has access to Vine Street, but with no left turns allowed.

— To get the rest of the roundabout built as quickly as possible, 33rd Street is completely closed at Vine.

— A detour via 29th Street and Broadway Avenue provides access to businesses in the area of East 33rd Street.

“Once that splitter island is done, it will allow the westbound traffic from 32nd Street to merge into, with a stop sign of course, the southbound traffic on Vine Street,” Braun said.

Braun said 33rd Street should be reopened to traffic by Thanksgiving.

Smoky Hill Construction started work on the first roundabout and frontage roads in the area in early June.

Smoky Hill Construction employee Michael Dick, Hays,  leveled freshly poured concrete adjacent to the new west side lanes of the hourglass roundabout under construction at 32nd and 33rd streets.