Roundabouts: Shape of things to come Increasingly, 'O' isn't just a baseball cheer, but a traffic solution.

April 07, 1997

MOTORISTS UNFAMILIAR with roundabouts may want to give Route 94 a whirl. Driving on the low-volume traffic interchange in western Howard County might be the perfect introduction to these looping road connections that occasionally send visitors in Washington, D.C. and New Jersey into navigational fits.

Get used to them. They may be coming your way. But don't put up the NIMBY signs. Roundabouts should not be mistaken for landfills, superstores or other construction projects that community groups sometimes find objectionable. Residents of Lisbon, in western Howard, once bitterly opposed plans to build a traffic circle at Routes 94 and 144; they have embraced the interchange since its opening in 1993. Lisbon may get a second circle.

In southern Howard, Greg Brown, president of the Cherrytree Farm Neighborhood Association, looks forward to the proposed pair of traffic circles connecting U.S. 29 with Route 216. Like speed humps, they force motorists to slow down considerably before negotiating the curves. Mr. Brown is not certain that the roundabouts can handle the increasing flow on the busy intersection now controlled by traffic signals, but he hopes they will reduce accidents.

The State Highway Administration is right to move forward with traffic circles at that spot. It is considering several designs.

The proposal to build circles on Route 216, one on each side of U.S. 29, worries area businesses that are wondering what to expect. Eventually, however, these interchanges likely will accommodate the development surge in southern Howard. Traffic circles also are coming to two intersections of Route 100 -- at Snowden River Parkway and at Route 103.

These are part of the state's overall effort to use roundabouts more widely in Maryland, from rural areas to busier urban settings such as the heart of Towson in Baltimore County.

Visitors may get disoriented, but motorists using them every day are likely to find them an easy route to get from one highway to another.

Commuters are certain to learn quickly that traffic entering the roundabout is required to yield the right-of-way to circulating traffic. The first time may be rough, but getting used to them should prove no tougher than parallel parking.

Pub Date: 4/07/97

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