The roundabout zealot rides again...and again...
Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!
I say "roundabout" and you inevitably come back with the scene from "National Lampoon's European Vacation".
Never heard THAT one before.
Wisconsin's love-hate (mostly the later) relationship with traffic rotaries enters a new phase as West Bend Republican representative David Craig comes out with a proposal calling for more local say-so when the DOT makes the call for a freshly installed roundabout. Right now, the state has the final word, even if a community goes for the pitch forks and torches at the mere suggestion of one. Craig's proposal would change that.
Roundabouts continue to sprout around the state and the beefing inevitably follows. They're confusing, people say, and big trucks have a hard time negotiating them. Detractors claim they cause more accidents than they prevent. Plus, they're, well, different. Downright foreign, if you must know. Damn near socialist.
They're safer--yes, they don't eliminate accidents but the ones that happen are far less severe. Gone are the head-ons and t-bones you get at conventional intersections. We used to have a rash of crashes at 116th and Grange in Hales Corners when two stop signs controlled the intersection, some of them fairly serious. A rotary went in a few years ago and I'm told what wrecks happen now are far more minor.
They make traffic flow better. Take Moorland Road in New Berlin, for instance. Would you rather sit forever at one of those seemingly eternal red lights at a busy intersection, or roll quietly through one of the two roundabouts near the Ridge Theater? Yes, they can be confusing but what busy crossroads isn't the first time around? Think back to your first encounter with the some of the ones at Goerke's Corners.
The trouble with the Moorland roundabout--especially the one nearest the theater--is that drivers don't always use the OUTSIDE land when they want to dip into the Ridge's parking lot, choosing instead to dive from the inside lane across the outside one where, occasionally, there can be a vehicle in the way. I almost got clobbered that way the other day when someone almost lit into me. Part of the blame is on me, as you're supposed to yield to BOTH lanes of traffic in a dual rotary.
Roundabouts eliminate the number of possible "contact points" from as many as 32 in a traditional intersection to as few as eight, at least according to what the DOT tells the Journal/Sentinel. And, there are no left turns which safety officials say are the biggest menace. They're the reason the state of Michigan came up with its own way to avoid them.
Would you rather have to confront that mess?
The bottom line: Wisconsin doesn't necessarily embrace change, and this is a fairly big one. We also don't like being dictated to, especially by the state or the DOT. Rotaries violate both of those tenants.
They aren't going anywhere, that's for sure. They continue to flourish around Wisconsin, although there are only five in Milwaukee County.
We have much bigger traffic issues than the arrival of the rotary. Take, for instance, what to do about I-94 west of the Zoo past Miller Park. Then there's that whole business about the gasoline tax used to pay for such projects. We're driving less which means fewer dollars in the construction kitty and no one in Madison with any appetite for tweaking the percentage paid at the pump.
THOSE are problems. Roundabouts? Not so much.
So sayeth the rotary zealot.