State should put the brakes on roundabouts

Last updated on May 19th, 2022 at 02:28 am

The state of Wisconsin seems to be on a roundabout binge. The philosophy of the state Department of Transportation (DOT) is that whenever major intersection improvements on state roads or four-way stops are planned, the installation of roundabouts must be considered.

Statewide, there are 58 roundabouts open on state and local roads, seven to 10 more are scheduled to open by the end of the construction season and 140 or more are in various planning stages.

Before the state proceeds with its plan to blanket roadways with roundabouts, it should slow down, and I have made that request to the DOT. I have also asked the DOT to rethink the roundabout at Racine Avenue and Interstate 43 in Muskego because of concerns with the roundabout at I-43 and Moorland Road in New Berlin.

The design at the New Berlin roundabout left much to be desired with poor signage and lane markings. There have been a number of accidents at the roundabout, not to mention a high level of anxiety and frustration. There are also complaints about the roundabout on Drexel Avenue in Franklin near Highway 100 and the new Shoppes at Wyndham Village.

Some of my constituents that have corresponded with me about roundabouts have been receptive to the roundabout concept. They agree with the DOT that roundabouts improve safety and reduce truck accidents. The DOT contends, “Roundabouts move traffic safely through an intersection because of slower speeds, fewer conflict points and decision-making. Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that roundabouts provide a 90 percent reduction in fatal crashes, 76 percent reduction in injury crashes, 30-40 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes, and a 10 percent reduction in bicycle crashes.”

However, constituents I have heard from angrily oppose roundabouts. I am very concerned about the danger posed by roundabouts resulting in truck accidents. There are other concerns including poor signage and lane markings that I have already indicated. What about semi-trailer trucks? The configuration of roundabouts makes it extremely difficult for semi-trailers, long trucks, campers and cars with boats to successfully negotiate the turns.

Proponents at the DOT suggest frustrated motorists, in time, and with more education, will learn to accept roundabouts. How does the DOT adequately train the masses, the vast number of motorists on our roadways? Most of them will never get their hands on a DOT brochure or see a roundabout video on the DOT website.

That is why I suggest the state put the brakes on roundabouts until the kinks can be worked out. The idea is to improve all aspects of roundabouts: design, safety, ease of use.

The DOT should bring together special study groups of designers, engineers, and importantly motorists to determine the best model for roundabouts. I have asked the DOT to conduct simulations with a cross-section of Wisconsin drivers and cross-section of vehicles before proceeding further with roundabouts.
Until then, the state should put away the plans to build more and more because the current roundabout design at I-43 and Moorland Road is not ready for prime time.

State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents the 28th District.

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