Archived Story

Editorial: Roundabouts make sense

Published 9:45am Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Look at what the county seat to the west is getting.

Roundabouts — three of them — are coming to Blue Earth.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to remove stoplights on U.S. Highway 169 through the seat of Faribault County and install roundabouts this summer. They are slated for junctions at Seventh Street, Leland Parkway (County Road 16) and Fairgrounds Road (County Road 44).

And in Mankato, there are plans to install a roundabout at Madison Avenue and state Highway 22 in 2014.

It seems the safety of roundabouts is winning civil engineers over, even here in the American heartland. We encounter them more and more.

The safety is hard to argue against. It is much easier for motorists to make right turns. The most dangerous part of stoplights are the left turns. Roundabouts solve that problem and — best of all — keep the traffic moving. After all, who hasn’t sat at a stoplight with no one coming in any direction and wondered whether there couldn’t be a better way of managing traffic?

In Blue Earth, many people in the community have fought MnDOT over the roundabouts. But when it comes down to it, the biggest fear is just getting used to them. Traffic research shows drivers are more alert going into roundabouts than they are going into stoplights — which also helps make them safer. In this age of text-messaging and cellphone-talking drivers, we need reasons for drivers to get off auto pilot and stay alert, with both hands on the steering wheel.

Plus, as there is more and more effort to make cars fuel-efficient, there ought to be a push to make roads more fuel-efficient. The least fuel-efficient aspect of driving is stopping and starting over and over. With a roundabout, drivers slow down, yield to oncoming traffic, then enter the roundabout, then leave, usually without a full stop.

When the Blue Zones organization came to Albert Lea in 2009 and brought traffic experts who suggested roundabouts in Albert Lea for some troubled intersections, there was quite a bit of skepticism. But regardless of what we say here in this editorial, there will come a day when a roundabout will be constructed in our city, too. It’s only a matter of time.