Our Opinion: Pro-roundabout

We’re pro-roundabout.

We’re not afraid… of change.

PennDOT has prepared two conceptual designs for improvements to the intersection of Market St. and Pennsylvania Ave. in downtown Warren.

Option one would replace the existing traffic signal and improve the turning radii.

Option two would bring a roundabout to the intersection.

The decision rests with Warren City Council. A public meeting on the options is set for August 22 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Warren Public Library’s Slater Room.

We vote Option 2. And we have our reasons.

First off, it’s cool.

No, seriously, they are more aesthetically pleasing. If we are truly interested in sprucing up the downtown, then let’s spruce it up. A hotel, a parking garage, new facades on businesses, new buildings, a new-and-improved Struthers Library Theatre, parks, fountains… all of these have happened or are happening. Let’s continue with a roundabout.

Now for the science: They are less expensive and more efficient.

Wait, what?

We published that the cost of a new traffic signal at this location would be $1.2 million (PennDOT is paying for either option), and the roundabout would be $1.7 million. But we are talking about over time –long-term costs associated with maintenance and electrical would be eliminated without the hardware of traffic lights.

Roundabouts are more efficient — given the fact that there is no more traffic light to stop at. They have been proven to improve traffic flow, given the fact, there is no longer a delay, you only yield.

Lastly, with no light to beat, travel speeds are lowered, and the few collisions that occur in roundabouts are typically minor and cause few injuries since they occur at lower speeds. This includes pedestrian accidents. Crosswalks are set further back from vehicle traffic, allowing drivers more time to react to a pedestrian crossing. And, again, vehicles are moving at a slower speed.

The one-way travel due to the gently-curved intersections would seem to eliminate the potential for head-on collisions and t-bones.

Remember, currently, there is no right on red on Pennsylvania Ave. from the Market Street Plaza direction; due to Water Street.

There would be no light to beat.

But, we get it. Roundabouts are scary.

“I think a lot (is) fear of the unknown,” City Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz said. “I think we have a general idea how the traffic will flow with a light… A roundabout certainly has the potential for being smoother than the light. (We are) not going to exactly know how (it will) function until it’s here.”

That’s the thing: Studies have shown that, while most drivers get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look initially, after they use them, they like them.

And, then, we WILL have “a general idea of how the traffic will flow” with a roundabout.

Exhibit A: The roundabout in Waterford… so much simpler. You no longer think about it.

There are obviously many questions to answer: How will this affect semi-truck traffic, which we get a ton of at that intersection.

PennDOT is aware, is all we can conjecture.

PennDOT would also be aware of the weather and how plowing and road conditions would be impacted.

PennDOT is probably also aware of past accidents occurring at the lighted intersection.

These are all valid concerns and good reasons to attend the meeting on August 22.

How they do or don’t specifically influence city council or PennDOT will soon come to light.

But in its simplest plan, we vote no more light.