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Marion Roundabout Debate

MARION, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- The city of Marion is moving forward with its $20 million corridor construction project by taking public input on the first phase: a $1.8 million roundabout at 7th Street and 7th Avenue.

But the roundabout has a lot of people riled up. They're worried about the safety, cost, and the impact on local businesses.

City engineer Dan Whitlow said the roundabout is necessary.

"I've seen people get killed out there, I've seen the jaws of life out there, prying people out of cars," said Country Kitchen co-owner Michael Regan.

Roundabouts are technically safer than traditional stoplights because people travel through them more slowly, and drivers only need to watch for cars in one direction, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Some Marion residents believe the learning curve for roundabouts is too steep, and the safety aspect would backfire.

"You're going to cause problems, traffic problems, you're going to have accidents," said resident Dennis Jeffries.

Former city council member Kay Lammers helped approve the city's 'first roundabout, but said the new plan to build three within the next year is going to hurt business.

"Roundabouts take up prime commercial space, and every time Marion closes a business to build a roundabout, the Marion Independent School District loses a tax base," Lammers said.

The school district just approved a property tax levy increase on Tuesday night.

"Two million dollars for this roundabout -- what happened to just street lights?" Jeffries said.

The roundabout will cost $1.8 million and the city has a $1 million clean air grant from the federal government for the project.

The owners of the Country Kitchen that sits at the corner of 7th Avenue and 7th Street used to be against the roundabout, but said, the city has worked with them to figure out solutions for parking restrictions and traffic flow.

"It's going to be painful getting from Point A to Point B, just with construction, but that's always an issue. But once we have the finished result, we think it will be probably one of the premiere places to be," co-owner Greg Semelroth said.

"I think there always needs to be a reinvestment in communities, and that's what we're trying to do," Whitlow said.

The city hopes to build all of the roundabouts, all on 7th Avenue, in 2015.
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