ALTHOUGH the word “roundabout” is often used as an expletive by some Columbus area motorists, the traffic-routing system that is common in most European countries and is growing in popularity in this country can actually be described as driver-friendly.
The Indiana Department of Transportation has taken that approach in recommending that one be adopted at the intersection of State Roads 9 and 46, east of Columbus and south of Hope.
Many Columbus drivers have had limited experience with the system of traffic circles, and that experience for some has not exactly been a positive one. The city opened its first roundabout in 2008 at the intersection of 11th, Brown and Lindsey streets, one that connects to Indianapolis Road.
From its first day of use that particular roundabout has been severely criticized for its poor design by many drivers. City officials agreed with some of those complaints and ordered that a portion of it be revamped in 2011 to reduce traffic buildups that sometimes stretched to 20 to 25 vehicles.
The reconstruction did reduce some of that congestion, but many local drivers are still unhappy with the curving entrance to the system, particularly those who find themselves going into the roundabout alongside a semi-trailer.
While there could be some legitimacy to criticism of the 11th Street routing system, properly designed roundabouts have statistically proven to be safer and much more efficient than other intersection systems.
Certainly the intersection at State Roads 9 and 46 is a viable candidate for reconfiguration based on traffic volume and the likelihood for accidents. Ironically, the criticism that many drivers are still unschooled on how to use the roundabout on 11th Street can be applied to the current situation at State Roads 9 and 46, where delays have resulted as motorists are uncertain as to when to enter the intersection.
Moreover, this roundabout would be much more of a straightforward plan for entering the system, absent any of the turning entrances that mark Columbus’ 11th Street circle.
A roundabout has a number of user-friendly elements that sometimes are not obviously apparent. From the user perspective, it saves on gas with the elimination of stops and starts at the intersection. In addition to reducing the likelihood and severity of accidents, it can reduce automotive emissions and wear and tear on road surfaces.
The roundabout proposed at State Roads 9 and 46 is the second such system proposed by the Department of Transportation in Bartholomew County. The state has also scheduled one for the intersection of U.S. 31 and County Road 400S headed into Southern Crossing, and completion is anticipated within five years.
A motivating factor in development of a plan for that intersection has been the safety record. Officials have recorded 21 severe accidents between 2007 and 2009 that resulted in seven injuries. It is ranked among the top 5 percent of state highway intersections for collisions resulting in serious injuries.
The roundabout for State Roads 9 and 46 is further back in the department’s pipeline, but it represents a trend in highway configuration that is growing more prevalent in Indiana.
It’s time that motorists accept the trend and adjust their driving skills to cope with change.
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