There are few things that get folks more riled up than traffic circles.
For whatever reason, people seem to have a love/hate relationship with them.
The traffic circle on Annapolis Road in Odenton has gotten some attention in the last year due to a change in design, as well as increasing traffic stemming from nearby development.
There is a lot going on at this roundabout. There are cars coming from both directions on Annapolis Road, so you have a lot of traffic coming from the west toward Gambrills and from people coming from the east into Odenton.
It's also the connector to Sappington Station Road, which feeds into the Lions Gate development and Shelter Cove apartments and directs people to Maryland Route 32.
On top of that, Odenton Road and Higgins Drive connect into the circle as well. (Traffic from Odenton Road has increased as many drivers use it to avoid Annapolis Road.)
Last year, the State Highway Administration (SHA) decided to close off the inner lane of the circle, hoping that it would reduce the number of "side-swipe" accidents. SHA officials said drivers were not yielding properly and driving too fast.
Lanes heading into the circle were also reduced.
"Reducing the approaches to one lane each and doing so within the circle simplified the pattern for motorists," SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said in an email. "In addition, the improvement SHA initiated and completed has slowed the traffic moving through the roundabout. Crashes have decreased, which made our improvements successful."
Of course, the SHA's primary focus is safety. But does it take longer to get through the circle than in the past? Motorists said that, anecdotally, it appears that way.
I have no record of how long it took to get through the circle prior to the changes. But, I did perform a basic experiment to determine the impact of the circle during rush hour.
At off-peak times when traffic was light this week, it took me about 55 seconds to get from the traffic light in front of the shopping center to the opposite end of the circle.
At 5 p.m., it took me only a few seconds longer.
But at 6 p.m., it took 1 minute, 34 seconds. So that's a 39-second increase in time, or a 70 percent bump.
There was a queue of about a dozen cars during this time, and I can tell you from experience that it can get much worse than that.
Granted, we're still talking about a relatively small difference in time. If there was a traffic light instead of a circle there, drivers would probably wait longer. But that's no consolation to someone who has a morning train to catch or has already had a long commute home.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the circle is that there are still some drivers who just don't get it. Accidents there still happen, usually because someone forgot to yield. This should not happen, because the one-lane configuration makes things a lot simpler for drivers.
So let's review the basic rules of the roundabout:
- Reduce your speed (duh).
- Move up to the yield line and wait for an acceptable gap in traffic.
- Do not enter next to or in front of someone already in the roundabout.
- Yield to those coming from the left.
Patch will review a new traffic headache in the Odenton-Severn area each week, based on your suggestions.
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