Constructing a Roundabout: The perspective of a new transportation designer

I was in fourth grade when the seed was planted to a construct a roundabout at the intersection of Pioneer Highway and Fir Island Road in Conway, Wash. As I was playing with toy cars and trucks, building roads out of plastic zip-tracks in small town Illinois, Reid Middleton engineers were setting the foundation for me to see my first roundabout project come to life across the country 14 years later.

I joined the Reid Middleton team around the time that Skagit County received a grant as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) 2013 Quick Response Safety Program to construct a roundabout at the intersection. The project’s ability to demonstrate a reduction in fatal and serious injury collisions made it an excellent candidate; however, the grant stipulated that all construction funding was to be obligated within six months.  Reid Middleton worked closely with the County to fully design and develop construction documents within this accelerated schedule. The design combined two closely-spaced, poorly performing intersections into a five-legged roundabout, accommodating users from pedestrians to oversize/overweight permit vehicles. Along with improving safety and traffic flow on a daily basis, the roundabout serves as a gateway for special events such as the Skagit County Tulip Festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of people every April.

The Process Begins

In my first month at Reid Middleton, I spent time in the office and out in the field learning what is involved in designing a roundabout. Taking measurements to model pole truck turning movements was fascinating, especially having never seen similar vehicles growing up in the Midwest.  I learned how to predict design driving speeds, find sight distance triangles and clear zones, and how to create useful construction documents. Over the next four months, I saw sketches and mud on my boots turn into a tangible design.

Construction began in fall 2013 to get a jump on the clearing and grading outside of the existing roadway. The project shut down in November for the winter months, resuming at full-speed in May 2014. I had the opportunity to spend a few hours on site, and it was amazing to see paper plans materialize into curbs, fresh concrete, and pavement.

Celebrating Skagit Valley’s New Roundabout

I attended the ribbon cutting for the project on August 19th.  Representatives from Skagit County and Washington state gave speeches. The Swinomish Tribe performed songs to commemorate a fallen state trooper struck at the intersection prior to the project. They also performed a blessing for the intersection and the area’s future.  I am proud to have been a part of a project that not only made an intersection safer and more efficient, but brought a community together and created a beautiful gateway into the Skagit Valley for years to come.



Reid Middleton Project Team

  • Widener & Associates – Environmental Services
  • Russell + Lambert – Landscape Architecture
  • Paperspace LLC – Professional Drafting and Visualization