MnDOT aims for simplicity with roundabout redo

Traffic flows through the reconfigured roundabout Aug. 14. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Traffic flows through the reconfigured roundabout Aug. 14. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Intersection gets single-lane makeover

 

Clint Riese
News Editor

Crews from MnDOT reduced Forest Lake’s downtown roundabout to one lane in a matter of five hours early Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Most drivers on their commute that morning navigated a new-look intersection, as the re-striping process wrapped up by 7 a.m.

The roundabout, built in 2010, has been simplified from its original two-lane design in an effort to reduce crashes.

The new design significantly reduces the number of possible impact points. Drivers approaching the intersection from the west or north encounter two lanes: an outside one for right turns only and an inside one for proceeding into the roundabout. Drivers coming from the east or south follow one lane into the roundabout.

MnDOT East Area Manager Adam Josephson spent an hour monitoring traffic following the change.

“In general I thought drivers were doing pretty good,” he said. “It’s a lot simpler.”

He did note three situations to be aware of. First, drivers must know which lane to be in when driving east on Broadway Avenue or south on Lake Street. Those are the two approaches with two lanes. He witnessed one southbound driver in the inside lane cross over the line and turn right onto Broadway. That error is the most likely to cause fender-benders.

“You still have the opportunity to go in the wrong lane, but I expect those situations will be a lot less than those before,” he said.

Second, Josephson issued a reminder for drivers to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks. Pedestrians have the right-of-way and vehicles should come to a stop to let them pass by. Josephson said only one driver yielded out of four or five in this situation during his observation.

Finally, he said, drivers must know what to do when an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights on. Drivers are supposed to exit the roundabout before pulling over. Josephson observed a sheriff’s department vehicle that had to drive over the apron of the road because vehicles had stopped in the roundabout.

Along with the newly painted boundaries, posts guide vehicles along the proper path. The posts may be removed before winter to aid in snow plowing, but Josephson believes most drivers will be acclimated to the changes by then.

MnDOT covered the cost of the reconfiguration. Josephson said that consisted mostly of labor because material costs were minimal.

  • ScottRAB

    How about some enforcement?

  • Eric Langness

    Simplicity would be to put a traffic light in that everyone would understand. Clearly it would be much safer for pedestrians as well!

  • ScottRAB

    The FHWA has a
    video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHzly_6lWM ).

    Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the
    world. Visit http://tinyurl.com/iihsRAB for modern roundabout FAQs and safety
    facts. Modern roundabouts, and the
    pedestrian refuge islands approaching them, are two of nine proven safety
    measures identified by the FHWA, http://tinyurl.com/7qvsaem

  • Jeremy

    I drive through the round about multiple times per day pulling a 24′ trailer. Last Friday, after the striping down to a single lane, we were heading north on Lake Street. We entered the roundabout, proceed to go north and had to slam on the brakes, as someone pulled out from the east (by Za’s) not 3 feet in front of our truck and proceeded to give us the sign that we were number 1.

    Re-striping will not solve all issues.

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