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Roundabouts in the News


Peter K Duval <[log in to unmask]>


Peter K Duval <[log in to unmask]>


Thu, 10 Feb 2005 12:52:21 -0500





text/plain (295 lines)

For more than a decade, Tony Redington has been persistently promoting
roundabouts in Vermont.  Because of Tony's efforts, the Bike/Ped Coalition
has co-sponsored many workshops on roundabouts and their role in improving
the conditions for biking and walking.  So it was a real treat to see a big
picture of Tony above the fold on the front page of Monday's Burlington Free
Press (7 Feb 2005), and this after some positive reporting by Peter Freyne
in Seven Days.  Two articles by Candy Page and one by Peter Freyne are
pasted below.

Peter K. Duval           +1 (802) 899-1132
25 Pine Ridge Road           fax: 899-1132
Underhill, Vermont 05489

7 February 2005
 By Candace Page
Free Press Staff Writer

Opponents of the Circumferential Highway last week tapped into a trend as
hot as hybrid cars when they proposed installing a series of roundabouts on
Vermont 2A instead of building the Circ.

Highway departments from New York to Alaska have begun to replace
conventional traffic-light controls with the circular intersections as a way
to handle more traffic, more smoothly and safely.

Roundabout advocates speak with the passion of cult members. On dozens of
Web sites, they recount the dramatic reduction in serious accidents and
acceleration of traffic flow in places such as Vail, Colo., Lisbon, Md., and
Brattleboro, Vt.

"I'm glad to talk to anybody about roundabouts!" traffic engineering
professor Gene Russell of Kansas State University enthused. "Roundabouts are
the safest, most efficient intersection traffic control we have today."

In Vermont, the Smart Growth Collaborative believes a roundabout solution
can untangle the seemingly endless battle over completing the Circ Highway
ring road through Chittenden County.

First, they will have to overcome public and official skepticism about
roundabouts in general.

"Roundabouts aren't the cure-all," warned Senate Transportation Chairman
Dick Mazza, D-Chittenden-Grand Isle.

A roundabout replaces traffic lights with a counter-clockwise circulation of
traffic around a center island. Approaching cars must yield to vehicles
already in the roundabout, then drive around the circle until they reach
their exit.

A roundabout moves more cars per hour through an intersection than
conventional intersections because vehicles never have to stop. Fewer
accidents occur because traffic is moving slowly and there are fewer
possible points of contact between two cars.

Roundabouts are common in Europe but were rare in the United States until
the 1990s. No one is sure how many have been built here -- more than 800,
Russell estimates -- and hundreds more are planned.

"A roundabout is the first thing you do to deal with traffic congestion,"
said transportation planner Tony Redington of Montpelier. "It takes the glue
out of all these mucked up intersections. It's the jack of all trades -- and
master of all."

The proposed Chittenden County roundabouts would be installed in a series of
six along a widened Vermont 2A between Interstate 89 and the Five Corners in
Essex Junction. The cost would be about $20 million, less than half the cost
of the $52 million Circ through Williston.

'A wonderful thing'

Mark Rountree, general manager of Rountree Ford, a Brattleboro auto
dealership, has a beef about the roundabout installed in 1999 at the busy
U.S. 5/Vermont 9 intersection outside his business.

"When we had a traffic light there, people had to stop and they looked at my
cars while they waited. Now they don't have to stop. You can't pay attention
to my business when you are driving through a roundabout," he said.

He has put his finger on the magic of a roundabout, experts said: Cars never
have to stop at well-designed roundabout. Long lines and waiting times

Rountree has seen it happen.

"It's a wonderful thing once it's built -- it moves traffic incredibly," he
said. Before the roundabout was installed, cars leaving Interstate 91 would
back up onto the interstate while they waited to get through the U.S. 5

"Traffic on U.S. 5 was at a saturation point," Redington said.

Fewer injuries

Brattleboro traffic no longer backs up onto I-91. Cars on U.S. 5 seldom must
wait to get through the intersection.

The intersection had averaged 11 accidents with injuries in each of the five
years before the roundabout was built, Redington said, but there were no
accidents with injuries in the first 27 months it operated.

Brattleboro Police Chief John Martin did not have figures available, but
agreed there have been no serious accidents at the roundabout, where fatal
accidents had previously occurred. He said he believes fender-bender
accidents may have increased.

"It is incredibly efficient at handling cars -- it moves large volumes of
traffic," he said.

Americans have greeted roundabouts with skepticism, in part, proponents say,
because people confuse modern roundabouts with old-fashioned, ineffective
traffic circles that aren't engineered for safety and smooth flow.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation used to share that skepticism. Windham
Regional Commission Director Jim Matteau said the agency first resisted the
community's interest in a roundabout in the mid-1990s.

Today, state law requires the agency to consider roundabouts as a solution
to some traffic problems.

Bruce Nyquist, traffic design project manager at the agency, said
roundabouts are planned for a difficult intersection in Waterbury and at the
I-89 northbound off-ramp in Richmond. They are being considered for a U.S. 5
intersection in Hartford and at the junction of U.S. 302 and Vermont 110 in
East Barre, a high-accident intersection.

A roundabout is part of the design for Winooski's downtown renewal project.

Russell said it's been rare in the United States thus far to install a
series of roundabouts to control traffic on a long stretch of road, as
proposed for Williston and Essex.

"But there's no reason it shouldn't work," he said.

Contact Candace Page at 660-1865 or e-mail [log in to unmask]
Free Press


 By Candace Page
Free Press Staff Writer

A number of opinion leaders in Chittenden County met last week's proposed
alternatives to the Circumferential Highway with deep skepticism.

Their doubts were compounded of wariness of roundabouts as a
traffic-handling device and concerns about whether the proposed alternatives
would meet their private or local government goals.

At IBM in Essex Junction, the region's largest private employer, spokesman
Jeff Couture said at first look it appears the proposal would not solve the
traffic congestion that is a "potential roadblock to any future IBM growth."

In particular, he said, the Smart Growth Collaborative's chief proposal --
widening Vermont 2A between Essex Junction and Williston -- focuses only on
traffic coming to Essex from the south.

That would not help the majority of IBM employees, who live north of the
plant and must use congested roads north of the village, he said.

The Circ Highway, on the other hand, would be a limited-access ring road
through central Chittenden County, so those employees could get on -- north
or south -- and use an exit dedicated to IBM, he said.

"We have to look at it more deeply, but it appears to meet some of our
needs, not all of them," Couture said.

Essex Junction leaders are dubious about a roundabout, they told the state
Transportation Agency last year.

"The village of Essex Junction has resisted the idea of a roundabout at the
Five Corners intersection because of concerns over the aesthetic impact it
would have on our village center and public safety (i.e., pedestrians,
bicyclists, etc.) We also have concerns about passing trains gridlocking
motorists at the Five Corners," wrote Village Manager Charles Safford in a

In Williston, Selectboard Chairman Virginia Lyons said the town likes the
Circ in part because it would take through-traffic off Vermont 2A, which the
alternative proposal would not do.

"There is a lot of residential development there -- we want to keep 2A more
a local access road," she said.

Sen. Richard Mazza, D-Chittenden-Grand Isle, who chairs the Senate
Transportation Committee, said he is unsure that roundabouts can handle
heavy truck traffic; roundabout experts disagree.

Mazza also said Chittenden County cannot afford the delays that would be
inevitable in the Vermont 2A alternative, to design the widened road and to
acquire rights-of-way.

"You'd probably take 10 to 15 years to get it permitted and built. Look how
many years it is taking on Shelburne Road," he said.

Lyons said there is another, more subtle, obstacle to seriously considering
the proposals for roundabouts to solve the traffic problem in Williston.

"We've been looking at the Circ as a problem solver for so long, giving an
alternative an objective look is difficult," she said.

Contact Candace Page at 660-1865 or e-mail [log in to unmask]

Peter Freyne had this to say in a recent column in Seven Days:
(published 02.02.05)


Lessons Learned? -- Nobody's perfect, folks. Everybody makes mistakes. In
politics, learning from those mistakes is a priceless skill that appears to
be sorely lacking in the current administration.

When it comes to transportation, no bigger mistake stands out on the Vermont
stage than the one Gov. Jim Douglas made last year. Douglas refused to give
opponents of the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway the courtesy of a
meeting. They even agreed to let Segments A and B get built without legal
challenge if only Gov. Scissorhands would discuss alternatives to the final
Colchester leg.

Not a chance. Instead, Douglas signed construction contracts and moved full
speed ahead last winter. It was as if the federal lawsuit did not exist!

As everyone knows, the Douglas administration took it both on the chin and
between the legs courtesy of the court. Our governor's team was found to be
breaking long-standing federal environmental law. How embarrassing that it
took private citizens and organizations to get the governor of Vermont to
respect the law.

This week, the Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative went public with a
professional traffic-engineering study showing two alternatives to the
current Circ plan that could save taxpayers $10 to $30 million off the
bottom line while making traffic flow much faster in the Rte. 2A corridor.

God forbid, right?

In fact, check it out for yourself at Roundabouts are
the key. Very interesting, cutting-edge stuff.

So was the reaction from local and state highway officials.

The Freeps reported Vermont's new Transportation Secretary Dawn Terrill
immediately accused the collaborative of trying to "circumvent" the highway
planning process by going public with its ideas.

The new Dawn at AOT told yours truly she would have liked to have had a
conversation with the Circ opponents before they went to the press.

But Seven Days has learned that the critics have been trying to meet with
the Douglas administration since December. Attorney Brian Dunkiel, a member
of the brilliant legal team that won last May, said they contacted
Administration Secretary Mike Smith's office in December in hopes of a
meeting. Dunkiel said they expected their finding -- that more efficient
alternatives could save tens of millions in project costs -- would be of
interest during state budget preparations.

They expected wrong.

The chairmen of House and Senate Transportation committees, however, have
met with the collaborative, said Dunkiel. So have IBM officials in Essex
Junction. But both the Douglas administration and the pro- Circ Metropolitan
Planning Organization have rebuffed their advances.

Yes, indeed, nothing like learning from one's mistakes, eh?

By the Way -- The City of Burlington wasn't the only Chittenden County
community to vote "no" on the pro-Circ 2025 Metropolitan Transportation Plan
last week. According to Bill Knight, executive director of the CCMPO,
Hinesburg did, too.

Four other communities did not vote either way.


Inside Track By Peter Freyne
Seven Days
(published 02.02.05)

VTBIKEPEDPOLICY-L: The Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Policy Discussion List
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