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Roundabouts on the rise in US; Carmel, Ind., leads

Last week’s article touted the safety benefits of roundabouts versus traditional intersection traffic controls such as stop signs and traffic signal lights. Today’s article is based on information found in the Jan. 12 issue of The Villages Daily Sun newspaper and discusses roundabouts in The Villages, Florida, and Carmel, Indiana.

Carmel, a city of 92,000, has more than 125 roundabouts and more still planned. Since the late 1990s Carmel has been building and replacing signalized intersections with roundabouts because of their safety record, their compatibility with the environment, their aesthetics and their ability to make navigation easier and safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. According to statistics from Carmel, since they began installing roundabouts to replace traffic signals and four-way stops, the number of crashes with injuries has been reduced by about 80% and the number of overall crashes reduced by about 40%.

Furthermore, with roundabouts, vehicles spend less time idling and less starting and stopping, which has led to significant gas savings. A study conducted by the city on 10 roundabouts found an annual average savings of 24,000 gallons of gasoline with one site saving about 47,000 gallons.

In 2006, Carmel police studied the average cost of damages — from crashes at four intersections, two with roundabouts and two with traffic signals. The average cost of damages for the two roundabouts was $3,000 and $3,500. For the signalized intersections, it was $7,335 and $13,561, according to the news article.

In Florida, the Lake Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization took a look at traffic crash statistics from a sample of 12 intersections in The Villages from 2012 to 2018, six signalized intersections and six roundabouts. The study results were:

¯ Six signalized intersections: 538 total collisions, 160 injuries, five fatalities, $2.9 million in total damages

¯ Six roundabouts: 306 total collisions, 49 injuries, one fatality, $877,000 in total damages

These statistics should convince you of the safety benefits of roundabouts. However, for some drivers, roundabouts are a new method of controlling traffic at intersections and they may not know exactly how to navigate them. The New York State Department of Transportation uses public input as a portion of the determination in the design phase of new projects, and public opinion was against a roundabout in Tupper Lake a few years ago. This may also be behind the Saranac Lake village Development Board’s reluctance to support a proposed roundabout design for the intersection of River Street, Lake Flower Avenue and Brandy Brook Avenue, where out-of-town drivers are often confused by what many consider to be a poor design. Plans have been submitted for a redesign of this intersection in conjunction with the new hotel now under construction at this intersection.

The village board should do its homework and learn about the benefits of roundabouts. In general, once drivers have maneuvered a roundabout and become familiar with them, it becomes a positive experience. I hope the roundabout choice wins approval in Saranac Lake — in time, local drivers will love it.