There is an intersection in my town. It has many nicknames including “The Circle of Death” and “An example of our wasted tax dollars” as well as “The worst damn intersection in the area”. Back in 2011, my county spent $3.2 million dollars to change a normal intersection into a roundabout. And it failed miserably.
I first should explain my town to you. It is a very old town; with the median age being around 69 years old; one of the oldest in the nation. It is also a tourist trap. When the weather gets even a tiny bit cold, thousands flock down, making the roads and stores way more congested.
This intersection is right off of an exit at I-75. The area wasn’t as built up as it is now which was the supposed reasoning behind the roundabout. Having lived here for over 13 years, I can say that the light was kind of slow, but at least it worked safely. Sure the turn lanes seemed to sit through two cycles, since they never went first and you couldn’t go right on red, but it did its job.
The roundabout connects the highway with the main city and surrounding neighborhoods. Because of this, it experiences quite a bit of traffic. In order to try and combat this issue, they made it two lanes. For most people, this is where the main issue is.
Many of these drivers in the area are not familiar with roundabouts. The two lanes make it even more difficult and confusing to navigate. Combine that with poor signage and confusing arrows on the asphalt, and you are simply asking for trouble. Many drivers don’t hold their lane, or dart across lanes at the last second which cause accidents.
This intersection has become so bad, many drivers, myself included simply avoid taking it. My best friend got sideswiped in his Jeep by some man who didn’t yield properly to traffic. A buddy who rides a motorcycle got taken out by a last second lane changer. Within its first week of opening, there was a head on collision by a confused man who went the wrong way around it and hit a car head on.
But don’t just take my word for it:
Statistics show that traffic count at the intersection decreased by around 45% as drivers simply want to find a different route. With the light in 2007, about 66,000 vehicles used the intersection daily. Since its opening in 2011, the roundabout has seen about 34,000 vehicles a day.
Also keep in mind that being off the interstate, many semi trucks, buses, and RVs use this intersection. To someone unfamiliar with the area, this can prove to be a disaster. The route is also one that leads to the hospital. Speeding ambulances and police cars are common here, which stops the traffic in its place since there isn’t really anywhere to safely pull over.
The severity of the collisions has gone down dramatically. This is due to the speed limit being only 15 MPH; it was 45 MPH with the intersection. Yet, since its opening, accident rates have quadrupled.
There were 11 accidents in 2008 and 2009 with the light. In 2012, we experienced 52. 2013 had 57 fender benders. 2014 saw 50 accidents. This is almost 30% worse than any other intersection in our whole county. The accident rate here is about 4.16 per volume of daily traffic. A 2.0 rate is considered a critical intersection by the county.
So far, the county not only plans on leaving this one as is, but also intends on building 16 more in the area! They say eliminating a lane would cause more congestion. But, at least in my opinion, it would still move faster than when closed by an accident. So far, they talk about issuing new signage and educating people on how to drive it properly. Now we just wait and see...
Top image source: Google Maps. Other sources include The Herald Tribune and their respective Facebook page.