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Prospectus Blog The Straightforward Benefits Of Roundabouts

Puget Sound’s arterial roads need more roundabouts. They’re much bigger than the “traffic circles” in residential Seattle, and do occasionally materialize in the suburbs here. More to the point, they’re cheaper than stoplights (both to build and maintain), reduce congestion and save fuel. Most importantly, roundabouts have 80% fewer crashes with injuries than regular intersections.
The Economist makes the case for roundabouts, and notes there’ve been about 100 constructed in Washington state, which is approximately one-tenth of the U.S. total. Some other nations have exponentially more than the U.S., the magazine reports.
So why don’t we use roundabouts more, and why aren’t they part of the solution? It might be a small win, but at this point, shouldn’t we also be looking at any low-hanging fruit?
Other advantages: roundabouts are not affected by power outages (read: 2006 wind storm!), don’t need their light bulbs changed, and don’t have unattractive wiring hanging over intersections that can fall and kill people. In fact, they are a net positive if landscaped or festooned with a piece of art. (Arc de Triumph, anyone?)
Granted, this is not about to solve our whole congestion problem, but it should merit further emphasis from the federal and state DOTs, city and county planners, and elected decision-makers.
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