Fed, VDOT like circles

Published 5:15 pm Monday, December 24, 2018

State says traffic circle must be considered first

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Roundabouts appear to be the go-to solution for some intersections due to future safety performance and lack of ongoing maintenance costs, according to VDOT.

Whether an intersection may need a traffic solution — be it a roundabout or signal — gets triggered when there are more than five accidents a year, according to VDOT spokesperson Shellee Casiello.

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The Town of Smithfield recently reviewed a consultant’s study that calls for putting a roundabout at the intersection of Benn’s Church Boulevard and Gumwood Drive and Cypress Crossing. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The roundabout was suggested as a complement to intersection improvements at the Smithfield Bypass and South Church Street intersection.

The Benn’s Church and Gumwood intersection had 14 accidents between March 22, 2015 and Feb. 16, 2017 — or about seven a year, according to VDOT. 

Nine reportedly had no injuries and four had non-incapacitating injuries, according to VDOT. Nearly all occurred during daylight hours in dry conditions, according to VDOT. 

Casiello said there were no similar intersections in Smithfield that would serve as a comparison in terms of accident data.

Casiello said a roundabout must be evaluated as a solution before a traffic signal as part of the federal intersection screening process. 

While roundabouts may initially cost more to build, they have a better safety performance than signals and generally have lower ongoing costs, such as power and maintenance beyond normal road requirements, said Casiello. 

Roundabouts reduce the number of points where vehicles can cross paths and eliminate the potential for right angle and head on collisions, according to VDOT.

Roundabouts result in a 35 percent reduction in crashes and slower speeds are safer for pedestrians, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

That portion of Benn’s Church Boulevard is labeled the most congested roadway in Isle of Wight County and the idea of a roundabout has generated some concern. Motorists in Tidewater Virginia are less familiar with using the traffic flow device than in some parts of the country.  {/mprestriction}