Roundabout directions

This Travel with Care image shows examples of how to use a traffic circle

With four new roundabouts potentially coming to Auburn over the next decade, drivers would do well to familiarize themselves with the proper usage of these rotund intersections.

Engineering Services Director Alison Frazier said she encourages people to use them and said that if used properly, they are safer than intersections with traffic lights.

"I tell people don't be afraid to use them; they're definitely safe," she said. "A lot of people don't know what to do so they pull up and stop. Just keep going, just go around."

For those who are hesitant to "just go around," Frazier gives more guidance.

"The general rule is to yield to the person inside the roundabout, but you don't stop if you don't have to," she said. "There are yield conditions, so when you feel it's safe, you enter and go around until you have to get out."

Speeds in roundabouts are usually 15 mph, and when vehicles approach a roundabout, they are directed to reduce their speed in increments.

Because of the design of the traffic circle, there are less points of impact than there are at traffic light intersections, which helps reduce the likelihood of accidents.

"Safety is the biggest component of roundabouts," Frazier said. "You have slower speeds. I don't know why we haven't used them more in our area."

Roundabouts definitely seem to be a trend. Recently, the city of Opelika installed two new roundabouts and have plans for more.

In Auburn, there are four potential roundabouts that could be installed within the next decade.

First, a plan for a traffic circle at Farmville Road and North College Street was announced by Alabama Department of Transportation last winter. The project will be funded by state and federal funds, and construction was initially slated to begin in spring of 2020, but Frazier said she is uncertain if that is still the target.

"We're waiting on ALDOT to review what we submitted to them, which was a 60-percent set of plans," she said. "I try not to estimate (a time line) until we get comment back from them."

A second roundabout in the works is one that would be installed at Cox and Wire roads. ALDOT is also involved with this project, and Frazier said she hopes to start on it within the year.

"The one we have in our hopper is Cox and Wire, and we've talked about doing one at Drake and Gay Street," she said. "As we move forward with our next budget cycle and Capital Improvement Plan, I'll revisit that and see if it's something we want to plan for the future."

Frazier said the city coordinated with the developer of the new housing project on the corner of Drake Avenue and Gay, so the buildings are set back from where a future roundabout may be installed.

"They actually gave us rights of way for a future roundabout there," she said.

Further into the future, about six to eight years, is the possibility of another roundabout — one at Martin Luther King Drive and Shug Jordan Parkway.

"That's a higher speed road, and it's also an ALDOT maintained section," Frazier said. "If we did that, ALDOT would have to permit it and approve it."

She said when that time comes, traffic concerns and volumes would be reassessed to determine if a roundabout is needed.

Frazier encouraged residents to visit travelwithcareauburn.com for a video and more information about roundabouts and other modern traffic issues.

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