Colonial Avenue roundabout just about ready to go

CAVE SPRING – Many residents of Southwest County have been impacted by the closure of Colonial Avenue from Rt. 419 to Rt. 221 during the summer and early fall.

The good news is that the road should be open next week sometime. The intimidating news – for some – is that there will be a new roundabout at the intersection of Colonial Avenue and Penn Forest Blvd. VDOT District Administrator, Richard Caywood, hopes that any apprehension will be short-lived. He believes that once residents get past their initial reluctance to using the roundabout, they will learn to appreciate its benefits.

The Colonial Avenue roundabout has been under construction for months. - Photo by Dot Overstreet
The Colonial Avenue roundabout has been under construction for months. - Photo by Dot Overstreet

Roundabouts have been proven to enhance safety and efficiency when used selectively, at the right intersections. According to Caywood, “This is almost a perfect application because there is a lot of traffic on all three legs.” VDOT studies have shown that roundabouts provide a 90% reduction in fatal crashes and a 75% reduction in injury crashes. With the slower speeds necessary to maneuver the roundabouts, drivers have more time to judge and react to other vehicles.

“Folks that live around there will see traffic moving significantly slower than it previously did”, said Caywood. “It should also function more efficiently than a signal.”

Delays in traversing intersections are significantly reduced when cars yield rather than stop and wait for green lights. With the elimination installing a traffic signal, the roundabout will save as much as $5000 per year in maintenance and electricity costs.

This roundabout is a single lane circle where all vehicles will travel counterclockwise around a central island. Vehicles in the roundabout will have the right-of-way, therefore, cars entering must wait for a gap in the traffic before moving into the circle. There will be splitter islands separating the entrance and exits for each leg, and also a cross-walk at each entrance and exit.

The center island of the roundabout will be surrounded by a truck apron, a built up curb where a large truck or school bus will have drive up on the curb to maneuver the circle. This is to accommodate the turning radius of larger vehicles so that the wheels do not run up over the center island, tearing up landscaping.

Truck aprons enable the modern traffic circles to control speed. It gives the effect of keeping it narrow and tight for cars.

Some general tips for maneuvering a roundabout are as follows:

• Vehicles should slow as they approach the roundabout

• Traffic should move through the intersection at about 15-20 mph

• There will be a “Yield” sign and dashed yield line at the roundabout intersection

• Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists and stop if necessary

• Yield to circulating traffic from the left, but do not stop if it is clear

• Enter the circle and proceed to your exit

• Display your right turn signal just past the exit before the one you plan to use

• Watch for pedestrians as you exit

When emergency vehicles approach, always give them the right-of-way. If you have not yet entered the roundabout, pull over to the right allowing emergency vehicles to pass. If you are already in the circle, continue to your exit then pull over to the right shoulder of the roadway allowing emergency vehicle to maneuver around you.

According to VDOT’s Driving Modern Roundabouts – Rules of the Road, bicylists are encouraged to walk their bikes across the crosswalks. If the cyclist chooses to ride through the roundabout, the same rules apply for the bike as for an automobile.

Further work at the roundabout intersection will occur next summer, including road work on Colonial from the roundabout up to Rt 419.

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