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Editor’s corner: Traffic circles a growing trend

Motorists across the region are likely to get a sense of anxiety when this word appears: roundabout.

No matter where you live, unless maybe in England, traffic circles that replace signals on major roads and streets are sure to bring opposition. In Warren, construction on a traffic circle at Pennsylvania Avenue and Market Street is not expected to begin until sometime next year. Planning detours for the project are the biggest obstacle at the time for PennDOT.

“The project is currently in the design phase, heading toward final design,” Jill Harry, press officer said in a video update covered by Times Observer reporter Josh Cotton.

Like it or not, this travel trend is something that is destined to continue. When accidents occur, it usually has something to do with speed.

Traffic lights do not slow motorists. Consider our actions when the light changes to yellow. Most attempt to get through the intersection, not slow down.

Traffic circles, however, force the calming of traffic. “Roundabouts are geometrically designed to reduce vehicle speeds to generally 25 mph or less, and all turns are right turns,” PennDOT notes on its web site. “This significantly reduces the severity of crashes over those at traditional intersections. Crashes that do occur are typically low-speed, sideswipe crashes rather than high-speed T-bone collisions that can occur at traditional intersections especially with left-turn movements.”

Neighboring Chautauqua County had its New York state Department of Transportation also come down with a heavy hand on its busiest intersection. At Routes 60 and 20 near Fredonia — right around Exit 59 of the New York State Thruway — a roundabout was constructed with two lanes.

It was greeted with plenty of pushback. But now that many local motorists have become accustomed to it, criticism has waned.

Warren may not be happy about PennDOT plans for the circle. In time, however, those sentiments — especially when you do not need to wait at a red light — may signal a change.

John D’Agostino is the editor of the Times Observer, The Post-Journal and the OBSERVER in Dunkirk, N.Y. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call (716) 487-1111.

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