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  • Jeremy Hart, Real Estate Professional in Blacksburg


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July 03, 2008


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Ugg, roundabouts are such an abomination!! The engineers in my home town thought they were a great idea and put one in a major intersection near my old house. The accident rate increased 500% in the first year. They've had to redesign the layout twice so people don't run into each other, and now do you know what they are considering? Putting traffic lights at the entrances to the roundabout to smooth the flow better.

There are places where roundabouts make sense and a major intersection like Main and Prices Fork is NOT one of them. The only issue with that intersection (and it's been that way since I was a Freshman at VT in 1996) is the lane where folks want to make a left onto Prices Fork from Main St coming from downtown don't have a dedicated turn lane, and traffic builds up at busy times. With the added space that will be needed to have a workable roundabout, instead put in a center left turn lane in and be done with it. Pedestrian traffic is typically lower down at that part of town, and the town will be creating more of a headache than fixing anything. If they are truly worried about pedestrians they need to first put in working walking and don't walk signs.

I can't even imagine what that intersection would look like on a football game day or graduation day.

Jeremy Hart

That's what I've been wondering as well, Bill - why would a center lane not work? Rarely do commuters traveling south on Main Street turn into the shopping center there, so a center lane in the other direction probably doesn't make sense, but it certainly does for those turning left onto Price's Fork Road. I can't see a roundabout working in that area.

It's been argued - on this blog and others - that a roundabout improves traffic flow. However, have you seen traffic flow back up at the roundabout that Virginia Tech installed on Washington Street? I have, and that's with fewer cars than what will enter this particular roundabout.

I don't disagree that there's a traffic pattern that needs fixing at this particular intersection, I just wonder if there's a better alternative.


Roundabouts - or "circles" as we call them in Jersey - are a nightmare. NJ was the "circle" capital of the country until about 10 years ago, when they finally decided that the increased traffic backups and accidents were no longer worth it. Now, most of the circles in NJ have been eliminated and replaced with intersections, which is what the circles were designed to replace in the first place! The new intersection designs, for the most part, simply have extra turning lanes to accommodate traffic flow, or sometimes alternating green lights.

This is a traffic disaster waiting to happen if it is built. Perhaps not right away, but within a few years the effects will become apparent. Good luck, Blacksburg.

Jeremy Hart

Thanks for the firsthand experience, Darla. So you're saying that an extra turn lane was all the "circles" needed ... see - makes you wonder why we just can't do the same in Blacksburg. There would be some work that would need to be done to ADD a lane, but certainly no more than a completely redesign of an intersection would require.


Roundabouts are awesome. They dramatically improve traffic flow, while limiting speeds through the intersection. I've driven quite a bit in Europe where roundabouts are common place. I'm always amazed how much better traffic flows through circles, as opposed to the long back ups and stop and go driving to get through traffic lights.

The number one problem with circles is people who believe they should be able to blast through intersections at top speed.

For a local example, see the circle on campus, where you used to need a cop to direct traffic, you now have an effective intersection that regulates traffic without people, or a light.

Jeremy Hart

Philip -

Your comment that roundabouts are well-used in Europe has been made before ... in fact, if I remember correctly, the IIHS says the same thing ( I just find it hard to believe that the learning curve for this is going to be very long, what with the number of students coming in and out every semester, the number of cars that descend upon Blacksburg in the fall, at special events like graduation, etc.

I hope you're right, I really do - I guess I'm just skeptical.

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