April 18, 2013

Terms for traffic circles cause confusion, as Maine roundabouts increase

Roundabouts, which are smaller, slower and thus safer than rotaries, are the way to go, experts say.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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In this May 2009 file photo, cars pass through a roundabout along the Gorham bypass at the junction of Route 114. Roundabouts, which are smaller, slower and thus safer than rotaries, are the way to go, experts say.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Gorham, which Landry calls Maine's "guinea pig" for roundabouts because it got the first one, now has five. But perhaps the residents' familiarity with roundabouts has backfired.

The first roundabout, at routes 202 and 237, improved safety in Gorham's Little Falls village.

There had been 18 accidents, six with injuries, from 1994 to 1996, the three years before flashing yellow and red lights were replaced with a roundabout.

From 1998 through 2000, there were just eight accidents, two with injuries.

In the past three years, from 2010 to 2012, there were 19 crashes, seven with injuries -- more than before the roundabout was built.

Kitty Breskin, the engineer who designed the state's first roundabout, went there recently to see what was happening, and found that people entering the roundabout were tailgating the vehicles in front of them and following them into the circle, rather than yielding to oncoming traffic.

Michele Gildard, who runs Lampron's Little Falls Mini Mart at the intersection, said she sees it all the time.

"It can get pretty dangerous," she said. "People are squeezing in behind each other. Instead of yielding, they're just going."

Greg Costello, crash records manager for the Department of Transportation, said he doesn't think drivers in Gorham are confused; they just have found a loophole.

"If you find a way to cheat the system, people will do it," he said.

The fact that that's happening at a roundabout is an anomaly, say state officials, who point to three newer roundabouts, in Caribou, Bangor and Kennebunk.

Collectively, there were 26 crashes, eight with injuries, in the three years before those roundabouts were built. In the three years after, there were 15 crashes, one with injury, the officials said.

Landry said he thinks communities are sometimes resistant to roundabouts initially just "because they're different."

He presented more information to Westbrook residents at meeting last week. "When we left, more people were open to the roundabout option than when we started," he said.

 

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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Today's poll: Roundabouts

Do you think roundabouts and rotaries are good traffic solutions?

Yes

No

View Results