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Thread: Roundabouts in Wisconsin

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Roundabouts in Wisconsin

    I notice that the State of Wisconsin is putting in roundabouts at intersections that go on to four lane highways. Also, I was in Mt. Horeb the other day and noticed that basically all their major intersections in town are roundabouts.

    Was this a big push by Wisconsin DOT? Something cities wanted?

    I would be interested to know more about this.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The DOT has been pushing this hard. We probably have too many. I doubt there is a community I have planned for where we have not had negative comments - even when there are no roundabouts in that city.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Most of the complaints are because they are a new thing. The ones that I have used here in the Appleton/Fox Cities area are all working exceptionally well, many proving to be the ideal solutions to their intersections, and I seldom have any delays getting through them - a much, much improved situation over the former signals. Many of the delays are due to the learning curve, the biggest being motorists not realizing that those red things by their entrances are YIELD signs and not STOP signs. They also continue to work just fine whenever the power is off.

    WisDOT's policy for the past ten years or so has been to consider a roundabout at every new or substantially rebuilt state highway intersection that otherwise rates a need for signals or all-way STOP signs.

    Mike

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Is this to take away the need for electric signals? Do they feel its safer?

    I dont think the Iowa DOT has thoughts on this one way or another. A few cities in Iowa have done them, but nothing through the state level.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    I suspect some of the push in WisDOT could be directly due to one of the more nationally well-known roundabout consultants not named Barry Crown, is based out of Madison, Wisconsin and I recall he previously worked in WisDOT. (He previously also worked out here in Colorado.) This shouldn't in any way be construed as anything improper, but at least acknowledging that a nationally regarded consultant in their own backyard with previous ties probably has their DOT on a more pro-roundabout stance than others. Frankly I wish our DOT would take a similar approach, being a fan of roundabouts myself.
    Last edited by UrbaneSprawler; 21 Sep 2011 at 11:35 AM.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    ...motorists not realizing that those red things by their entrances are YIELD signs and not STOP signs....
    I would add that they are YIELD signs, which some people ignore completely and simply launch themselves into the roundabout without looking for traffic already there. These tend to be older women in Buicks and Cadillacs.
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    You're seeing a lot of roundabouts being built in Michigan as well. These are safer because you reduce the possibility of incapacitating/fatal t-bone crashes to near zero. If you calculate the cost of human life and can live with the realization that you will have an occasional side-swipe due to an idiot, they are quite cost-effective. As mentioned earlier maintenance costs go down too because there are no need to have signals. Granted, the cost of operating signals have dramatically improved, but the cost of putting in new ones have gone up.

    There are a string of them along an arterial by my Periodontist's office. One day I got out right around peak hour. Being the good transportation planner I had to check em out for myself. At the first one I was behind a mini-van. The driver came to a complete stop before entering it. The minivan was also heading west so at the next one, I was behind her again so my car came to a complete stop before entering the round about. CURSES!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    I loved this quote in a blog article on a local roundabout that replaced an overcrowded 4-way stop instead of putting in a signal:
    It didn't take drivers long to adapt to the new traffic control. Some of those that wrote with dire warnings sent notes retracting their misgivings and offering praise instead. Informal polling of neighbors and other drivers in the area ("What do you think...?") shows a high degree of satisfaction with the roundabout. The most common complaint now, from those that used to wait in long lines, is that the driver in front of them hesitated too long before going, that they didn't need to wait.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus
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    It seems like people will always find something to complain about.

    With that said I have a small gripe with roundabouts. Mind you I am in there favor. I spend a decent bit of time in Europe every year (about a month) and I find that most (not all) roundabouts in the US are far more elaborate than they need (could be a issue that's only local to me) to be than the generally simpler ones in Europe.

    Is it a need to coddle American drivers more and make sure they know exactly what to do? We can't expect drivers to make critical thinking decisions?

  10. #10
    I drive through two roundabouts each way on my commute to work. They are awesome and I wish there were more of them. There is never congestion anymore (I used to have to wait through at least 1 cycle of the traffic signal at one of them...I now cruise through both intersections (they are at a freeway interchange) in about 30 seconds.

    The Wisconsin DOT does consider them for every project and I have yet to see an instance where the traffic problems haven't been substantially improved after they were installed.

    I also know there are statistics proving they are safer. While there may be more accidents they are at a lower speed than say, someone blowing through a stop sign or red light. Getting sideswiped by a car going 20 mph or less is much better than being t-boned by one going 45.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

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    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    It sounds like you WI people need to learn from us MA/former MA people about how to use "roundabouts" (which are really called rotaries). Check out this exerpt from "The Boston Driver's Handbook" with handy graphic:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=Cx4nXwtU2Q8C&lpg=PP1&vq=boston%20driver's%20handbook&pg=PA58#v=onepage&q&f=false

    The Boston Driver's Handbook is a great resource for all of us who pride ourselves on driving like %*$&#@'s.

    What is missing is the simple fact that, no matter who legally has the right-of-way in a rotary/roundabout, the person with the craziest eyes who is driving the most dented car always goes first.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Actually modern roundabouts being implemented in Wisconsin are only similar to rotaries back East in that the intersection is round. Generally rotaries are much larger, there's little to no angle of deflection approaching the intersection, etc. It's comparing apples to oranges in terms of design and function.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ddomin4360 View post
    I spend a decent bit of time in Europe every year (about a month) and I find that most (not all) roundabouts in the US are far more elaborate than they need (could be a issue that's only local to me) to be than the generally simpler ones in Europe.

    Is it a need to coddle American drivers more and make sure they know exactly what to do? We can't expect drivers to make critical thinking decisions?
    That is a good observation and generally true I think. There was a German presenter at the 2011 TRB roundabout conference (he was on Friday in the lessons learned session, all slides and recordings are available at: http://www.teachamerica.com/RAB11/). Their standards are very different from the state of the art in the US. They keep them smaller, and don't have the large deflected entrances. He didn't go into the reasons, but I think it would be a result of the German driver population, and just a different goal on the Safety - Capacity - Cost triangle. As another indicator, with more US roundabouts in operation for longer times now, assuming the same geometry, capacity at US ones is being found to be somewhat less than at UK examples.

    That is one reason I like roundabouts, they force some responsibility on the drivers. They are interacting with other humans in a balanced and complimentary way, with minimal external stimuli. This should be encouraged, not removed with traffic signals and protected-only left turns.

    Where else do we trust even sub-average humans with piloting a 2-ton steel block at high speeds, controlled only with a few ancient rules of the road, painted stripes, and a few lights on poles. And 99.999% of the time it works fine. As a traffic engineer I am constantly fascinated by this.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Roundabouts are being built in a big way in the US 41 six-lane upgrade projects in the Oshkosh-Neenah and Green Bay, WI areas. Check out http://us41wisconsin.gov for some of the details of this *MASSIVE* project (about $700-800M in total), with a detailed slideshow under 'Gallery'.

    Enjoy!



    Mike

  15. #15
    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    It sounds like you WI people need to learn from us MA/former MA people about how to use "roundabouts" (which are really called rotaries). Check out this exerpt from "The Boston Driver's Handbook" with handy graphic:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=Cx4nXwtU2Q8C&lpg=PP1&vq=boston%20driver's%20handbook&pg=PA58#v=onepage&q&f=false

    The Boston Driver's Handbook is a great resource for all of us who pride ourselves on driving like %*$&#@'s.

    What is missing is the simple fact that, no matter who legally has the right-of-way in a rotary/roundabout, the person with the craziest eyes who is driving the most dented car always goes first.
    Wisconsin sends out a diagram with every license renewal, I believe.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  16. #16
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    While European roundabouts may be simpler and American roundabouts more elaborate, crashes happen in European roundabouts also, notably at multi-lane exits where there are no pavement lines to indicate what direction each car is entitled to go.

    While roundabouts are intended to slow traffic down, the typical way of assigning fault in the U.S. favors the driver going faster. (He will tend to be further along in the intersection at the moment a crash, if any, happens.)

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