Residents and local and state officials were offered an encouraging, web-enhanced display last Thursday concerning the viability of installing a series of traffic-calming roundabouts along a stretch of Route 206 that, residents say, has suffered significantly from increased truck traffic, noise pollution, and cars traveling at speeds unsafe for typical residential neighborhoods.
The stretch in question, which runs from Cherry Valley Road at the Montgomery Township border to Nassau Street in Princeton Borough, has undergone an extended examination since the the Township secured a $100,000 grant from the state's Department of Transportation to explore improvement options. Sought by a group of residents under the auspices of Citizens for a Safer Route 206, the grant is specifically geared to examine methods of context-sensitive design, as well as roundabouts similar to the one installed on Faculty Road to ease traffic flowing in and out of a major Princeton University parking hub.
Used frequently in Europe as a means of calming traffic, roundabouts only began to be employed in the U.S. in the last decade and are usually considered for their low maintenance costs, their handling of changes in directional volume, and their ability to slow traffic, even on high speed roads. The benefits, as well as potential pitfalls, of a roundabout system were highlighted Thursday at Township Hall when Nazir Lalani, a deputy director with the Ventura County Transportation Department in California hosted a "Webinar" that underlined the advantages and disadvantages of creating a road infrastructure regulated by roundabouts.
Mr. Lalani's presentation echoed that of Ian Lockwood, a consultant with the Orlando-based planning firm Glatting Jackson, which conducted preliminary design presentations before standing-room-only audiences at Township Hall between November and January. In those talks, Mr. Lockwood said that while many of the problems associated with Route 206 are regional, some can be addressed locally by using standard traffic-calming methods such as increased tree plantings, an increased road network that does not funnel all cars to one main artery, and, lastly, by creating roundabouts.
Mr. Lockwood's firm is currently planning a roundabout for the intersection of Routes 518 and 29 in Lambertville.
In the Webinar, Mr. Lalani also addressed some of the disadvantages of roundabouts, worrying that there are many ways to "get it wrong" in the design process, which consequently can become complicated. He also warned that very high volume roundabouts can be more difficult for cyclists and pedestrians to navigate.
Proper signing, he added, was essential as cars can go the wrong way through a roundabout if the structure is not clearly marked.
However, with roundabouts, he went on, crash rates, including those involving deaths, are known to plummet. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts reduce crashes by 39 percent, and 76 percent for injury and fatal crashes. Mr. Lalani's presentation went on to say that there typically are fewer delays, and that roundabouts can handle "irregular" intersections, such as the one that joins Mercer Street, Nassau Street, and Route 206 (Bayard Lane/Stockton Street), better than signals.
Roundabouts can also create opportunities for what Mr. Lalani dubbed as "community enhancement," a point that complements the context-sensitive approach outlined by Mr. Lockwood, who encouraged master plan and zoning stipulations facilitating development that would calm traffic, such as buildings facing the roadway, tree plantings, and sidewalks.
A second Webinar, scheduled for next Tuesday, June 20 from noon to 1 p.m. will outline part two of Mr. Lalani's presentation.
Return to Top | Go to Next Story