Howard History

Circling Lisbon

October 14, 2007

As reported Oct. 18, 1992, in The Sun:

Some call it a traffic circle. Engineers prefer the term "roundabout." One mischievous patron at Lee's Market in Lisbon (population 129) has even labeled it the "Lisbon Beltway" on the flier that graces the deli counter wall.

Whatever you call it, the plan to build one at the intersection of Old National Pike (Route 144) and Route 94 is all the talk in this tiny western Howard County community: Some like the idea, many others do not.

"It's an experiment," says Dorothy Gray, a clerk at Lee's and a die-hard opponent. "If they put it in, I'm taking helicopter lessons and flying to work." Just as Portugal's Lisbon was once one of the great centers for exploration four centuries ago, so too is Maryland's Lisbon poised to become the starting point for a rediscovery of an old-fashioned approach to traffic.

The State Highway Administration's planned roundabout in Lisbon will be a first in Maryland. Never before has the state sought to create this kind of traffic circle along a highway, and if the Lisbon project proves successful, it could launch a trend.

"We've been considering it for years, but the concern has always been, will drivers accept it?" said Neil J. Pedersen, the SHA's planning director. "They've had them in Great Britain for years. The question is, can [we] adapt to that environment?"

[Paul McCardell, Sun researcher]

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