To slow cars, 4 traffic circles are proposed near Jeffers Hill EAST COLUMBIA

June 08, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

County officials say a series of "roundabouts," a modern version of the traffic circle, will force motorists to slow down near Jeffers Hill Elementary School.

"I think all of us parents will take whatever we can get because there have been so many of us that have been terribly fearful over the last year," said Patti Lutz, a member of the Jeffers Hill PTA's executive committee.

"Thank God they're doing something and we did not have to have a child's death before they did something," she said. "We had many near-misses."

The roundabouts, estimated to cost under $100,000, will be discussed with parents at the school at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Three roundabouts will be built along Tamar Drive, two at intersections with the Majors Lane loop and the other at Old Montgomery Road. A fourth roundabout is planned at Old Montgomery and Majors Lane.

Motorists will be alerted to the circles by rumble strips, one on Tamar between Route 175 and Majors Lane and the other on Old Montgomery Road approaching Tamar Drive.

To further slow traffic next to the school, the county will install speed bumps on Tamar Drive and on Major's Lane.

Highway engineers had monitored traffic where the school's crossing guard works on Tamar Drive, and found that 85 percent of motorists are traveling at 43 mph or less. Speed limits on Tamar Drive are 25 and 30 mph.

"The objective is to bring the prevailing travel speed . . . below 35 mph," said George Frangos, a traffic engineer for the Department of Public Works. As motorists negotiate the roundabouts, they will have to slow to about 15 mph, he said.

Money for the project was approved by the County Council as part of the capital budget for fiscal year 1994, and the engineers will attempt to complete the project by the time school starts in September.

The roundabouts, which require motorists to yield to vehicles in the circle before entering, will not be the county's first.

Commercial properties at the end of Sanford Boulevard in Columbia Corporate Park have their access controlled by a roundabout, and Rouse Co. is building one on Banneker Road in Town Center to control traffic entering new town house and condominium developments there.

The traffic circle's renaissance was in Britain between 25 and 30 years ago, and since then other countries, such as Australia and France, have started building them.

Many residents in Lisbon resisted last fall when the State Highway Administration decided to build an experimental roundabout at the intersection of routes 144 and 94.

However, skeptics seem to have changed their minds when it became obvious that traffic has slowed considerably since the roundabout opened April 12.

County police like the idea of roundabouts near Jeffers Hill.

"From from what we've seen so far, it seems to work. And anything that helps to reduce accidents, we would be in favor of," said Sgt. Gary Gardner, spokesman for the department.

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