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Getting There: Roundabouts might be best solution for some intersections

BY SCOTT SHENK

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

With all of the signals knocked out by the recent storms, a good bit of chaos ensued.

Not at the signals with deputies directing traffic; from what I saw (at Deacon and White Oak roads) they were on top of things, and directing traffic is a tough job, especially in a place with unbelievably impatient drivers.

But with so many issues caused by the storm damage and power outages, having deputies directing traffic, especially round the clock, isn’t ideal. They have more important things to do in those situations.

What also rang was clear is how fragile traffic signals can be. One storm knocked out some 70 signals in the area.

Then, forgetting the problems with the storm and power outages, throw in the problem of high-speed crashes caused by red-light runners and difficulties with ill-timed, or un-timed, traffic signals, and you start to wonder if there could be a better way.

There is, in some cases—roundabouts, also known as traffic circles.

There are only a handful of roundabouts in our area (behind Mary Washington Hospital, in the Village of Idlewild subdivision and at the mall).

And, believe it or not, there was the potential of a really big one being built here. At one point, the Virginia Department of Transportation even considered a roundabout at the Falmouth intersection, says VDOT’s Kelly Hannon. In the end, engineers felt a traffic circle wouldn’t work—too much tractor–trailer traffic made a roundabout less enticing there.

Still, Hannon said VDOT often considers roundabouts as viable solutions for troubled or new intersections.

“We feel like where they make sense, they’re a great solution,” she said.

One spot that could get a roundabout is the tangle of turns at Lafayette Boulevard and Kenmore Avenue in the city, which looks more like an Escher print than an actual intersection. The state has set aside funding for preliminary engineering at the intersection.

A roundabout there doesn’t appear to be set in stone, but almost anything else at that intersection would be an improvement. Look for more news on that spot, and roundabouts in general, soon.

Dear Scott: The site plan for Cosner’s Corner posted on the Silver Cos. website originally showed crosswalks at the U.S. 1 and Spotsylvania Parkway intersection.

Today there are sidewalks that lead to all four corners, handicapped ramps from the road to the sidewalk, and lines drawn across the roads—but no lights or signals have ever been installed. As the use of the parkway path increases for runners and walkers, these missing signals become more important.

Does the county or VDOT have a timetable for when these are to be installed, if at all?

—Peter Mount, Spotsylvania

VDOT’s Hannon said the intersection is on the state’s list of places for pedestrian signals.

“The signal will be installed so pedestrians can cross Route 1 on the southern side of the intersection, where the path is located,” she said. “It is scheduled to be installed next year.”

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2012/07/08/getting-there-roundabouts-might-be-best-solution-for-some-intersections/

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