Roundabout is doing its job
There was a time, not so long ago, when the "new" roundabout on Highway 3 was an educational experience for drivers in Farmington. These days, though, it's become more of a simple fact of life.
The roundabout - which was a joint project among the city, Dakota County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Empire Township - will celebrate its two year anniversary in just a couple of months. It opened in September, 2008, though at the time traffic only had access to the intersection from three directions.
The 195th Street extension opened about a year after the roundabout, allowing traffic to flow to and from all four directions.
The concept of a roundabout received criticism from many residents, but city engineer Kevin Schorzman said nearly two years later, the roundabout is doing exactly what it's supposed to do - control traffic without any significant accidents at the intersection.
There may have been a couple fender-benders here and there, he acknowledged, but the whole point to a roundabout is to prohibit traffic from entering an intersection at a higher rate of speed and from coming in at a straight line.
By design, motorists have to slow to enter the curved section of the roundabout. And since they are entering at a right-hand curve, doing so prohibits vehicles from striking head-on or speeding through an intersection and possibly striking a driver's or passenger side door.
"The lack of major incidents up there speaks well to how it functions and how people have adapted well to driving through it," Schorzman said.
The most recent traffic volume study for the area was completed in 2007, prior to the roundabout's construction. However, at the time, there were about 10,400 vehicles on that stretch of road on a daily basis. While Schorzman can't say whether those numbers have increased, he doubts the traffic counts have decreased.
"I highly doubt the installation has made people not drive there just to avoid it," he said.
Schorzman was familiar with the roundabout system prior to coming to Farmington, but the Highway 3 intersection was still the first of its kind in this community. There's a chance, though, it will not be the last.
It is possible that one day the intersection of Pilot Knob Road and 195th Street could become another roundabout. As that intersection becomes busier, city and county officials will do some studies and determine what type of controls would best suit that area. There has been talk of a roundabout there, he added.
"Each intersection is its own animal when it comes to that sort of thing," Schorzman said. "Finding the appropriate traffic control at any intersection usually comes down to the reports. We can't really speculate (on the best traffic control methods) without sitting down and studying the data we collect."