How do you feel about roundabouts?
There have been many debates on how roundabouts affect safety and how traffic flow is affected. Improved roads, safety, and better traffic flow are the results in mind for road reconstruction, I’m not sure all are achieved with a roundabout. In general, I am not an opponent of roundabouts. There are some that I avoid at all costs, and a few others that I navigate out of necessity, despite feeling uncomfortable every time I enter them.
Presently, we have one roundabout on Anna Maria Island located in Bradenton Beach, but a recent traffic study by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) tells us more are planned. The Bradenton Beach roundabout is in the middle of the city, on Gulf Drive and Bridge Street. This very popular area of the Island built the roundabout in 1994, replacing a two-way stop.
Not everyone likes this Bradenton Beach roundabout. Some of their Longboat Key neighbours to the south are not at all happy with it. Longboat Key Mayor Spoll believes it bogs down Island traffic flow, causing traffic jams for drivers traveling north through his city and recently said he would like Bradenton Beach city leaders to remove it. Congestion is certainly a problem in this area. Travelling between Longboat Pass Bridge, on the north end of Longboat Key, and the Cortez Bridge, on the north end of Bradenton Beach, especially during the winter months, the travel congestion can be compared to that of a very bad nightmare.
Bradenton Beach Mayor Chappie said the roundabout needs to stay in place to help keep pedestrians and motorists safe. He said the roundabout, with its yield signs and four crosswalks, helps to separate pedestrians from motorists, preventing accidents.
While I agree with Mayor Chappie that pedestrian safety features should be in place, I feel that unbearable traffic congestion needs to be addressed as well.
With traffic backups on the island, The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is looking at adding roundabouts as part of its Barrier Island Traffic Study. These roundabouts would improve island traffic flow. Three roundabouts on Anna Maria Island have been proposed, one at East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue which would include removing the traffic signal, another at the intersection of Palm/Marina-Key Royale Drive, in Holmes Beach and the third one for northbound motorists on Gulf Drive at Cortez Road in Bradenton.
Roundabouts may not be the answer to all the Island traffic issues, but the elimination of traffic signals as planned in the barrier island traffic study would be a real benefit when not having to wait for power to be restored during a storm, hurricane or evacuation. 2017 Hurricane Irma is a strong reminder of that.
Now for a few facts as sourced 7/18 from the Florida Department of Transportation
Benefits of Roundabouts
Roundabouts are increasingly becoming more popular due to the benefits that they provide. These benefits include dramatic reductions in serious injury and fatality crashes as well as reductions in delay for road users. Benefits of modern roundabouts have been shown to occur in both urban and rural areas under a wide range of traffic conditions.
The Federal Highway Administration designated roundabouts as one of nine proven safety counter measures. Roundabouts provide a number of benefits as described below:
• Fewer crashes, 90% fewer fatalities and 75% fewer injuries
• Fewer severe crashes
• 10 to 40% fewer pedestrian/bicycle crashes
• Roundabouts are safer for beginner and elderly drivers
• Can be used in multiple road intersections
Time Savings 30 to 50% increase in traffic capacity for intersection, less delay waiting at stops and signals
Environmentally Friendly
• Reduces pollution (from cars not waiting at traffic signals), reduces noise, reduces fuel consumption
• Roundabout islands can be landscaped with native plants and trees
• Roundabouts generally take less land than traditional intersections as they don’t require turning lanes
Saves Money
• Without traffic signals, no cost for traffic signals and yearly maintenance
• Intersection still operates in power outages, no need for police to direct traffic
• Roundabouts can help  improve sales at nearby businesses across the country as more people can walk or easily drive to locations compared to traditional intersections
• Can act as a marker to a business or downtown district
My question is, will these proposed roundabouts on Anna Maria Island eliminate delays allowing vehicular traffic to move quicker in congestion areas while providing safe conditions for pedestrians?
The third phase of the FDOT’s Barrier Island Traffic Study begins this fall with completion expected in Spring 2019. According to DOT projects such as roundabouts typically take 1-3 years to complete.
Whether we agree or disagree there may be no way ‘round it. Traffic signals on Anna Maria Island could become obsolete as discussions go round and round.
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