More Roundabouts Planned For Utah

More Roundabouts Planned For Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah has more than three dozen roundabouts and more are on the drawing board.

Salt Lake City transportation officials may put one at 900 South and 900 East, and the Utah Transit Authority and the University of Utah are building one that will accommodate TRAX trains as well as cars.

Traffic circles exist in west Salt Lake City's Glendale area, in Park City and at Kimball Junction. Riverdale has a couple and Draper has four.

There are 14 in the Provo-Orem area, said Bill Baranowski, a private consultant and traffic-circle specialist who has designed about 30 circles nationwide. They include one in Draper and the University of Utah's traffic circle.

"People are hesitant to try it at first, but confidence builds and the flow increases," he said. "You may have to slow down to go through them, but you'd never have to stop."

He designed a roundabout for Draper's 1300 East-Pioneer Road intersection, which was a four-way stop until last June.

The intersection was jammed daily with rush-hour traffic backed up "at least a quarter of a mile. It was extremely frustrating for drivers," said Nate Nelson, Draper assistant city engineer.

"People wanted a light there, but the City Council opposed that solution," Nelson says. "That's a historic part of the city, and they wanted to avoid the urban look. We went back to them and proposed a roundabout."

This roundabout is Baranowski's favorite.

"We designed it in the British way," he said. The four roads entering the circle are slightly offset, and the circular lanes are slightly banked toward the center.

Utah Department of Transportation engineers feel roundabouts may not work everywhere.

They have built only three on the state's highway system, including the Park City roundabout, one off the Bloomington interchange near St. George in southwestern Utah and one on the west side of Lehi.

"They are great for what we consider low-volume streets," said Robert Hull, a UDOT traffic and safety engineer. "But they might not work well for, say, 700 East in Salt Lake City."

That is because the heaviest vehicle volume runs north-south on 700 East, while side streets might produce comparatively low volumes. "To work well, you need a balanced flow from all directions," Hull said.

Salt Lake City transportation official Tim Harpst likes the fact that traffic keeps flowing through roundabouts without a lot of starting and stopping. "They are not air-pollution causing. And you don't have a traffic signal you have to maintain."

They also cost about the same as it would to install traffic signals and rebuild an intersection with curbs, gutters and new sidewalks about $300,000, he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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