WALL STREET JOURNAL RESPONSE
January 21, 2002
Wall Street Journal
4300 North Route 1
South Brunswick, NJ 08852
With modern roundabout construction in the US sure to pass
the thousand-a-year mark this decade, “Goin’ Round in Circles:
Latest Traffic Trends Leaves Drivers Dazed” (Journal, January 18,
2001) unfairly highlights a problematic entry at Clearwater, Florida.
The Clearwater “Gateway” roundabout certainly did initially
contain design flaws that are now being addressed. Gateway flaws
reflect more the need to take care when applying new technology
than any special problems of building roundabouts in the US
The Gateway roundabout saves users over 200,000 hours delay
yearly when compared with the daily gridlock from the signals it
replaced. The beach front community accessed only by Gateway,
demanded and received a new roundabout which cuts down
drastically on beach visitors routinely wandering past the tourist
services and into the residential area that is now just beyond the
latest roundabout. Vermont and Kansas public opinion studies
show overwhelming acceptance of roundabouts by regular users.
Vail and Avon, Colorado--the “valley of roundabouts”--with their nine
successful roundies demonstrate that a constant stream of visitor
traffic easily negotiates good roundabout designs year-round.
Vermont has the first northeastern single-lane (1995) and
multilane (1999) roundabouts. Vermont’s the first two single-lane
roundabouts have operated over 10 years without a single
reportable two-vehicle collision. The Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety study in 2000 concludes US roundabouts cut
incapacitating injury rates by 90 percent.
In Keene, N.H., a three-year citizen driven battle to educate the
community and the state transportation agency just ended with the
replacement of a fully designed $60 million bypass expansion
project with a plan of up to four roundabouts. The roundabout
approach is likely to cut costs by two-thirds and provide better and
safer service than the original signal-oriented project. In Golden,
Colorado, a busy commercial corridor today boasts four
roundabouts with less intersection delay, sharply lower speeds,
and a quicker end-to-end driving time than signals could afford.
Yes, roundabouts when placed at busy intersections improve
traffic flow, adjacent access, cut gasoline use and the resulting
pollution and global warming gases, enable greater development
densities, and curtail pedestrian injuries.
Transportation Planner and Co-chair of the former
Montpelier City Roundabout Committee
PS Note that I have presented three professional research papers on roundabouts contained in the
proceedings of the Canadian Transportation Research Forum in 1997, 1999 and 2001.
A first-ever North American research study now being completed for a Master
of Engineering degree by a candidate at the University of New Brunswick,
describes a conversion from signals to roundabouts of a US commercial
corridor (5 lane with center lane for turns) about 0.6 mile long.
The characteristics of the corridor included:
a. 20,000 AADT with growth about 3.5% yearly, mixed commercial development,
no significant pedestrian activity
b. "Before": five lane (center lane a turn lane), two signal
intersections/two two-way stop control, some crashes.
c. "After": four lane, median-divided, four roundabouts (three two-lane, one
"Before" and "after" analysis evaluates a conversion from
two-signals and one 2-way stop intersections to four roundabouts.
Measurements "before" and "after" of intersections performance, corridor
travel times, and speeds were amplified by use of standard HCM (Highway
Capacity Manual) intersection and corridor modeling software for a maximized
performance by signals at three intersections in the "after" condition (the
fourth intersection, a two-way stop control was left out of the theoretical
model study because was added to the project after design, giving a further
advantage to the signal alternative).
Full corridor travel times, PM peak: Original: 112 seconds
Four roundabouts: 114 seconds
Three signals (projected):
Signal travel time increase over roundabouts:
85th Percentile speed (actual): Before: 48 mph
The 21 second extra time to travel the highway that excludes the
intersections at the lower speed was more than compensated by substantially
decreased delay at the roundabouts.
Note from the time of the decision to switch from a signal treatment
for the corridor to four roundabouts, it took just 22 months to complete the
plans and construction, including public involvement.
9 Liberty Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
223-1744 (h) 828-4039 (o)
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January 23, 2002
Burlington Free Press
PO Box 10
Burlington, Vermont 05402
Williston and Chittenden County received a surprise gift during the holiday season, their first modern
roundabout at Maple Tree Place.
Yes, Williston citizens and Boxville neighborhood shoppers get a breather from seemingly endless “stop
and stew” at signalized intersections. Vermont’s fourth roundabout that opened late last November allows
travel to and from the Williston I 89 Those headed to Williston Village from the Exit now avoid three traffic
signals, including the one at Taft Corner. There is free flow from the Marshall Avenue intersection on VT 2A
through to US 2. From VT 2A it is just two right turns at signals and the roundabout to negotiate on the way
to the Village.
It makes sense to choose free flowing roundabouts at practically all Williston signalized intersections.
With community acceptance of the Maple Tree roundabout it may not be too many months before Town
businesses start talking to the selectboard about roundabouts to relieve their customers of the remaining
road diet of “stop and stew” signals. The Circ would create no noticeable change Williston’s congestion--
only roundabouts can assure the advent of free flowing traffic. And these low-cost roundabouts can be built
now in only a few months. First things first!!
Hopefully there will be more roundabouts under the holiday transportation trees in the near future for
Williston and Chittenden County!
Post Office Box 707
Barre, VT 05641
Why needlessly delay a major economic highway investment
boosting the premier tourist shopping mecca in Vermont (“Budget
Delays Road Project,” Sunday Herald/Times Argus, January 20)?
Does it not make sense to move speedily to cure “malfunction
junction,” the intersections of Routes VT 7A and 30, in
Manchester? Other than bridges, practically no highway projects
on the state list feature any substantial positive economic impacts
on communities. And when it comes to the environment, the State
approach to transportation projects generally considers minimizing
environmental harm as a primary concern. Positive energy or
environmental impacts receive scant attention. And safety got left
out in the cold as a criterion in a recent round of regional planning
highway project reviews ordered by the State.
Since positives in the areas of safety, energy, pollution, and the
economy do not surface as high priorities, it is little wonder then
that roundabouts still receive little attention in the state highway
programming. Roundabouts at busy intersections markedly
improve safety by reducing serious injuries up about 90 percent,
cut gasoline use by at least 100,000 gallons yearly along with
associated pollution and green house gas generation, improve
access to surrounding and nearby businesses, and improve the
beauty of downtowns and village centers. Roundabouts provide
safety benefits to pedestrians, foster increased walking, and
sharply reduce delay for all users. All these positives and more
apply to the two single-lane roundabouts sure to transform
malfunction junction into one of the most relaxed and attractive
crossroads in Vermont.
Only one of Vermont’s four roundabouts was built by the state--
two are entirely private investments. Several roundabouts await
state funding for final design and construction, and at least a dozen
are in the planning stage. Manchester with its village area
transportation design now seven years old, plans roundabouts at all
major intersections in order to create smooth free-flowing traffic.
Amenities that encourage walking and biking throughout the village
area are included. Manchester’s first roundabout not only serves
the shopping complex that includes Shaw’s but also opened up a
major new commercial area on the west side of VT 7A.
It is time to invest in economic development that betters the
environment and saves energy! It is time to revive and re-vitalize
the economies of our village centers! It time to consider
environmental and energy positives when funding highway projects!
It is time now to cure Manchester’s malfunction junction with the
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