Chief ‘disappointed’ by circulator

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Col. Steven McCartney had hoped for more from the $71 million spent to alleviate Apponaug Village traffic.

The chief said last week he is “disappointed” with the performance of Apponaug roundabouts, citing backups during commuter hours in the morning and evening at the Veterans Memorial Drive and Greenwich Avenue roundabout. As recently as last week, he said, traffic was at a standstill on Veterans Memorial Drive and he couldn’t get on the road from police headquarters.

“I thought it was a great idea,” McCartney said of the system of five roundabouts designed to eliminate the Apponaug Four Corners bottleneck by diverting traffic to Veterans Memorial Drive, making it two-way and extending it to an intersection and roundabout with Centerville and Toll Gate Roads.

The Apponaug Circulator, as it was dubbed, was seen as the ultimate answer to village traffic that became so bad in the 1970s that then-Mayor Joseph Walsh created the village rotary by turning Post Road in front of City Hall into a one-way road going east and Veterans Memorial Drive into a one-way road west. Still, it was a slog getting through the village, with traffic backing up daily on Post and Centerville Roads. The village center was frequently two lanes of incessant traffic.

Then planners came up with the circulator. Initially, the plan was simply to extend Veterans Memorial Drive as a bypass to the four corners and the village center. Roundabouts were introduced as a means of expediting traffic with the elimination of signalized intersections.

McCartney says he was maybe “too optimistic” for what the circulator could do. He feels the fault lies in a combination of design and driver unfamiliarity with roundabouts.

The roundabout at the former four corners is smaller than that at Veterans Memorial Drive and, as he points out, frequently becomes a choke point in the system. As for drivers, McCartney is all too familiar with what can happen.

“My guy got T-boned, he [the other driver] was doing 40 to 50,” the chief said of an accident Aug. 3 when Capt. Michael Gilbert was struck. Gilbert suffered an injury to his hand and has not been able to return to work. The driver of the other vehicle fled the scene but later turned himself in after the incident was reported on Live PD, McCartney said.

“People just don’t yield,” he said.

McCartney said police have cited motorists for failing to yield to traffic in roundabouts, but regularly monitoring the circulator would take away resources from other responsibilities.

Data would suggest that motorists are learning how to drive the roundabouts. There were a total of 12 accidents within the circulator system during July 2017 as compared to nine accidents for this July.

The state Department of Transportation reported a comparable number of accidents for July, noting that it would be a mistake to compare accident totals from 2014 when the Four Corners was two one-way streets merging to become one, one-way street.

“The number of conflict points was much lower than a four-way roundabout, which we now have,” RIDOT director of Communications Lisbeth Pettengill said in an email.

“Many years ago, when the Apponaug Circulator was designed, the goal was to improve traffic flow through the village by shifting heavy traffic from the center of the historic village to a new roadway to the north. Both the reduction in traffic and the beginning of additional economic growth is happening. In that regard, the plan is working,” she wrote.

She added that traffic is flowing with travel times reduced from the previous traffic configurations and new businesses locating there. She said a new restaurant opened at Apponaug Four Corners and AAA is purchasing the old Apponaug Mill.

“Roundabouts have proven to reduce fatalities by 90 percent and greatly reduce injuries and the severity of crashes. The Federal Highway Administration has identified roundabouts as a proven safety countermeasure as compared to traffic signals.  We are also putting in new signage to reduce confusion,” she said.

RIDOT did not disclose whether there are any plans to alter any of the roundabouts nor statistics on the number of daily vehicular movements in the circulator.

Comments

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Justanidiot

It is not the circulators that are bad, it is the stupid drivers. People just don't know how to drive.

Tuesday, August 14
davebarry109

Exactly. People are so stupid. They yield when they shouldn't and don't when they should. Rotaries require a little common sense, something many people don't possess.

Tuesday, August 14
Justanidiot

Even if you posses a little common sense, you will be in the circulator with 253 people who barely can breath and drive and text and put on makeup and yell at their kids and open their beer and light their cigarettes while zipping along at 63 mph and ignoring all the signs.

Tuesday, August 14
Thecaptain

However, It was I who identified major flaws in the design several years ago and being very vocal about it. I detailed how the traffic would bottle neck on Post road north bound approaching the Cumberland Farms. That structure causes the back up in excess of a mile resulting in people being aggressive while trying to get by that area.

360 signs throughout the system is insane and causes confusion. If you are a local you can get through the mess easily but there will always be people who are not local, there will always be drivers who are not focused, and there will always be excessive numbers of accidents.

Not withstanding the waste of money on all of the dead plantings that we paid for that have been ripped out and replaced 3 times so far. The 2 light poles that have been down laying in the weeds fro 6 months, and the eyesore building that centers the whole thing. All that for only 71 million. WHAT A BARGAIN.

Tuesday, August 14
kait3w

Overall I like the roundabouts.

I have driven through Apponaug Four Corners pre roundabouts and that was always a pain to get through.

Mainly the problem is people not following the signage of which way to go or what lane to use, and other not knowing how to drive through a round about. Why isn't Centerville Road next to Cumberland Farms not a two way? I think that would help at the back up at Greenwich Ave and 117. Though no matter what someone will always be unhappy with it.

Tuesday, August 14
Cat2222

The traffic still flows better than it did with the lights. The real backup occurs when there is a delay or accident on 95. I normally drive through the roundabouts daily. The excessive traffic comes when drivers on 95 are trying to get off the highway and go the back way. Those drivers are not used to traveling through the area and can be quite aggressive. I still have people that don't understand that they have to yield and look at you like you crazy when you aren't stopping for them. It is basic drivers education. Also, you still have drivers on their phones talking and texting while attempting to go through the roundabouts. As if that isn't an accident waiting to happen!

Tuesday, August 14
allent

The inside circle should not ever have right of way. Very strange

Tuesday, August 14
PaulHuff

I have to agree with the Captain. The only one that is problematic is the one by Cumby’s. It is too small and backs traffic up towards E.G. daily.

As for the other ones perhaps more Education and Enforcement is in order.

Wednesday, August 15
maestra

I wonder if another exit ramp is needed near the old Burger King? I am waiting for a response from D.O.T. on this question? Why is there not a two way road in front of Cumberland Farms? Could there be an added exit to Post Rd E.G. former Burger that would provide another way to E.G. Post Rd. and Apponaug Post Rd/City Hall in the peak hours' traffic that the Colonel speaks about in his remarks?

Wednesday, August 15
JohnStark

The article would have been more complete if it had emphasized the essential point: If you're in the rotary, you have the right of way. If not, yield to those who are! Still better than the old system. A little tweaking wouldn't hurt. Overall: B+.

Wednesday, August 15
patientman

I have to disagree with the Colonel. RI drivers are horrible. The Circulator is far superior to the old design.

Wednesday, August 15
WwkVoter

I would like to add that if nothing else, it LOOKS wayy better than what we had. Wonder how two things compare TODAY between the old circulator and this new one:

The accident rate across the entire circulator

The actual commute times

I wish this article had included those two very basic metrics in the article.

Thursday, August 16
Scal1024

I agree with patientman and others that drivers are a huge factor in the traffic backups. I give the Chief alot of credit for stating his disappointment publicly. I'm sure it would be easier for him to say it's a learning process and time will tell. I hope this is at least a wake up call to local officials, let's make sure we have this 100% correct.

Thursday, August 16
Justanidiot

This is such a money maker for the city. Put cops out there writing tickets for all the people who break the rules. You would be able to balance the budget and give money to kids in school.

Thursday, August 16
JusthaFacts

Roudabouts require driving skill to smoothly merge into the traffic going around them. Entering to soon will cause backups and collisions in the roundabout, but waiting too long will cause backups on the approach roads. When testing driverless cars in Germany, they found the programs too timid for roundabouts and had to turn up the "aggressiveness" variable to get to get them smoothly into the circulation.

Sunday, August 19
MaxTime7

The issue the Chief is having is there is not enough traffic relief for his fire apparatus to negotiate the roundabouts in a safe and timely manner responding to emergency calls. Traffic Signals are designed to give right away to busier arterial s and emergency vehicles at any giving time of the day. Once a roundabout is congested there is no relief, rather a free for all. The 3 outside roundabouts are very functional, they should have designed a Hybrid Solution maintaining the signals at DD and Cumberland Farm. Granted there is a driver learning curve, but the real failure is in design assuming roundabouts will work everywhere approach.

Tuesday, August 21
Cornelia

The is badly designed. Period. A well designed circulator doesn’t have all these problems. What a complete disaster.

Tuesday, August 21