Posted: March 29, 2013
A little more than two years ago, I wrote an editorial that discussed roundabouts, those crazy traffic features that appear to be popping up all over Wisconsin. At the time, I defined roundabouts as potential traffic hazards. Although I'm still not very fond of roundabouts, I now have a better understanding why they exist.
According to federal transportation officials, "Roundabouts are the circular intersections with yield control of all entering traffic, channelized approaches, counter-clockwise circulation and appropriate geometric curvature to ensure that travel speeds on the circulatory roadway are typically less than 30 miles per hour ".
Two weekends ago, while traveling to attend a wedding ceremony in Green Bay, I drove through three roundabouts right after one another. Fortunately, I knew that I needed to proceed straight through to my destination. Otherwise, I might still be trying to find my way out of the triple roundabout.
After speaking with a few traffic engineers in the Chippewa Valley, it appears that highway safety experts generally support the concept of roundabouts. However, all three whom I spoke with, agreed that highway engineers can get a bit carried away with the traffic feature.
In addition, since the Federal Highway Safety Administration requires engineers to look at every intersection and explain why there shouldn't be a roundabout in that particular location, often times the region ends up with more roundabouts than are necessary because the engineers were too lazy. In other words, sometimes roundabouts happen because the people in charge of the project don't take the time to explain why a roundabout is not needed.
The Village of Lake Hallie will soon have a roundabout in front of the existing Kwik Trip and Wal-Mart on Commercial Boulevard. With the likelihood of an 80-unit motel being developed to the east of Kwik Trip, the traffic count will increase enough to warrant the construction of a roundabout.
I especially like the Highway 124 roundabout near the intersection of Highway 29 designed by Fleming Andre & Associates. Not only is it a two-lane roundabout, but there's a way for vehicles to get on Highway 29 East or stay on Highway 124 South without having to go through the roundabout.
There's a nearly identical roundabout outside of Ashland,WI, near the intersection of Highways 2 and 13. I was able to travel through it twice last weekend and am alive to tell the story. Maybe roundabouts are not so dangerous after all.