Roundabout Answer in Lothian

February 16, 1994

The crossing of Maryland Routes 2, 408 and 422 in southern Anne Arundel County's Lothian has long been a troublesome intersection for local drivers. Governed only by a flashing red light and a stop sign for east-west traffic and a flashing yellow for the north-south flow, this crossroads has been the scene of more than a few accidents caused by drivers who plowed through without heeding the signals.

The State Highway Administration announced late last month that it wants to remedy the situation by replacing the four-way intersection with a traffic circle, or "roundabout," at a cost of about $175,000. It would open by the fall.

SHA officials maintain that the old-fashioned roundabout is safer and more cost-efficient than a traffic light. The one-way, 120-foot-wide circle that is planned would be easy to use, working something like a revolving door: Vehicles approaching the circle from any of the four directions would enter only after an opening emerged. Once inside, they would be limited to speeds of 20 to 25 miles per hour. The current flashing signals would be removed.

Anne Arundel residents shouldn't worry themselves with horrible visions of a roundabout like the high-speed, multi-lane variety in Washington, D.C. The Lothian model would be kid's stuff compared to the traffic circles that terrorize visitors to the nation's capital.

In fact, opponents of the project -- and, predictably, some detractors are already revving up -- would do well to talk to the people of Lisbon in western Howard County. The SHA's first modern roundabout opened at a once-dangerous intersection there last spring. Similar in scale to the traffic circle planned for Lothian, the Lisbon circle likewise faced early opposition. But within a few months, it had been deemed a happy success by area residents as well as by state and county officials.

Only one accident, a minor side-swiping, has taken place inside the Lisbon roundabout, and that happened before construction was complete. Quite a drop from the preceding five years, when 40 accidents and 49 injuries occurred.

Lothian residents should take note. For the question of what to do with the hazardous intersection of Routes 2, 408 and 422, the roundabout answer is the way to go.

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