The proposed roundabout at the intersection of 19th, Converse, and Pershing is meant to increase safety and smooth out the flow of traffic at this busy Cheyenne intersection. For those not familiar with the Cheyenne area, Pershing Blvd is the main east-west road that runs through the central part of the city. Converse is one of those streets that connects north and south across the city, going from Nationway on the south, to Dell Range on the north. 19th is a diagonal street that runs SW from Pershing and into a residential area. The intersection is at the SW corner of the VA Medical Center, and just north of the Cole shopping center.
The roundabout will increase the safety of this three-road intersection, as roundabouts physically seperate the incoming roads. Roundabouts, which are very popular in Europe, or European-styled cities like Washington DC, allow for a smoother flow of traffic.
One potential problem is that in order to build the roundabout, the city of Cheyenne wants to use eminent domain to acquire land from the Cole shopping center. The land involved is a parking lot, however, the nearby buildings, which used to house a theater and a video rental store, are useless without the nearby parking lot. The owners of the builings apparently want to sell the property, but the city is asking for a price that is much lower than what the owners want.
In this case, eminent domain makes sense. Most of the time when eminent domain comes up in the press, it’s because some city or locale has decided to seize land for some reason or another, buying out the owners at cut-rate prices, and in some cases, leaving the property abandoned. These sorts of things have given eminent domain a bad name.
The roundabout issue in this case is one of public safety. The contention is over how to treat property owners that want to sell the property to the city. Quite frankly, if the city of Cheyenne wants to complete the project, and avoid future lawsuits over accidents at the intersection, thye should buy the land, demolish the buildings, and complete the roundabout project.
Local opinion on the roundabout appears to be mixed. While there is large support for it, one Cheyenne resident called the project “a mess”, with the tangled ins and outs of the various streets, as well as the property battle against the Cole family, who owns quite a bit of land in and around the Cheyenne area. Another resident pointed out a number of accidents that have happened at the intersection, and related that similar accidents have happened at the Converse / Dell Range intersection.
The property battle with the Cole family aside, it appears that Cheyenne is on the right side of the eminent domain issue, at least this time. I had been skeptical, considering that the city often pursues rather aggressive policies in their push to expand the city.