Howard County motorists will test a 'roundabout' European-style traffic circle is Md.'s first

December 18, 1992|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

The State Highway Administration has decided to set up a temporary traffic circle in a western Howard County village to see if motorists are willing to accept Maryland's first "roundabout."

The agency had proposed building a permanent roundabout at the intersection of Old National Pike (Route 144) and Route 94 in Lisbon in October. But the proposal drew substantial criticism from the community.

In particular, some local residents objected to the idea that they were being used as part of an experiment by traffic engineers. Others wondered whether big trucks and buses might have difficulty navigating the circle.

Liz Ziemski, an agency spokeswoman, said setting up a simulated roundabout using temporary signs and traffic cones or barrels is a compromise. The circle can be permanently installed if the six-to-eight-week test is judged successful, she said.

"One of the big things we heard at the public hearing was that while it might be a good thing, they wanted a chance to check it out first -- school buses and trucks, especially," Ms. Ziemski said. "I think that's a fair request."

Traffic engineers have touted roundabouts as an ideal way to provide relief for congested intersections in the future.

Already in vogue in Europe, they have been judged as safer and more efficient than intersections controlled by traffic signals.

Essentially, a roundabout is a small-scale, slow-speed version of a traffic circle that operates like a revolving door. Approaching vehicles yield to traffic already in the roundabout and then proceed.

The agency expects to install the temporary roundabout in March or April.

After the test period, the agency will hold a public forum or canvass the community to judge people's reactions, Ms. Ziemski said.

The Lisbon intersection has been rated as having a high accident rate, with 40 collisions in five years, even though the roads are traveled lightly.

It is currently controlled with a stop sign and flashing yellow and red lights.

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