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Peoria accepts 'roundabout' way to handle traffic

The city of Carmel, Ind., a town of 100,000 just north of Indianapolis, has 140 roundabouts, more than any other U.S. city.

Carmel’s affinity for the roundabout instead of traditional traffic lights and stop signs was recently the subject of a New York Times story which pointed to a national trend with an estimated 7,900 of the circular intersections now in operation across the country.

With five of those 7,900 in Peoria, Sie Maroon, deputy director of Peoria’s public works department, said that roundabouts have worked out here.

“There have been no real issues to speak of. The only problems came when they first came to Peoria. People had to get used to them and figure out how to navigate through them. Once you do it, it’s relatively simply,” he said.

One of the complaints is that travelers can’t see far enough ahead when it comes to determining which way vehicles are going to go, said Maroon.

“Some drivers say they want to see for a longer distance away which really defeats the purpose of the roundabout,” he said.

Roundabouts reduce injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections that previously used traffic lights or stop signs, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“They’re designed so that when you get in the roundabout you keep moving but you’re slowing down. That’s a safety measure,” said Maroon, who called roundabouts fuel-savers “because you don’t have to stop and sit at a traffic signal for 30 or 45 seconds when you’re burning energy.”

Not having to install traffic lights at an intersection saves on electricity, he added.

Peoria has roundabouts can be found at: Alta and Radnor roads, at Pennsylvania Avenue near OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, at Harrison and Washington streets Downtown, at Allen and Hickory Grove roads and at the intersection of Allen and Alta roads.

Peoria nearly had a sixth roundabout, said Maroon. When a new intersection was installed at Willow Knolls and Allen roads in 2018 in a shared city-county project, a roundabout was considered at the site, he said.

“There was enough opposition at that intersection that people wanted to stay with the traffic signals but I do think there are advantages throughout different parts of the city that could utilize (roundabouts),” said Maroon.

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Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.