Roundabouts are the Latest Answer to Traffic Gridlock. And, Bainbridge is Right in the Middle of this Emerging Trend

Roundabouts are the latest and greatest transportation craze, aimed at staunching traffic gridlock. They’re ubiquitous throughout Europe and in other places around the world and help create driving efficiency and safety. America has been lagging behind, but is now beginning to catch up.

And, our own little Highway 305, which runs from the Bainbridge ferry terminal to the interchange with state Highway 3 in Poulsbo, is smack in the middle of this emerging transportation trend – caught up in a sort of roundabouts gone wild scenario.

This past summer the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) finally completed a first of several planned roundabouts on our lovable little highway at Johnson Way N.E. and 305 that includes a 14-foot sculpture designed by the Suquamish Tribe and serving as a Welcoming sign for Poulsbo. The roundabout is designed to reduce accidents and, in some ways, help to absorb additional traffic created by new development in and around the area.

Roundabout November 2023 article image courtesy of COBIIf you have driven on the island of late you know that the WSDOT has begun construction on two single lane roundabouts at the intersections of 305 and Northeast West Port Madison, and 305 and Northeast Adas Will Lane. The improvements include a feature at the intersection of Agatewood Road Northeast that will become a right in/right out intersection. This feature reduces the potential for collisions as a right in/right out eliminates left turns in front of oncoming traffic, says WSDOT officials. The projects will cost $11 million and are expected to be completed around December of next year.

Since 2015, representatives from the cities of Bainbridge and Poulsbo, the Suquamish Tribe and the WSDOT have been meeting regularly to discuss the so-called 305 corridor plan. “Why are we doing this?” asked Bainbridge City Councilor and former Mayor Joe Deets, in a previous interview with The Island Wanderer. “Traffic (on 305) is atrocious. If we do nothing, it’s going to get worse. We have a responsibility to act…(and) from what I understand from the engineers and experts, roundabouts are the way to go.”

Deets said the longer-range plan for the 305 corridor calls for additional roundabouts at Sportsman Club Road, Koura Road, Day Road, and in front the Suquamish Clearwater Casino. “There’s just not enough available money (now) to do what needs to be done,” he says. “We know (building roundabouts) is expensive and environmentally damaging, but we have to do something.”

The state has earmarked roughly $36.8 million for corridor roundabouts. The current projects include:

  • A single-lane modern roundabout at Northeast Adas Will Lane. The three-legged roundabout will serve both directions of SR 305 and Northeast Adas Will Lane.
  • A single-lane modern roundabout at Northeast West Port Madison Road. The four-legged roundabout will serve both directions of 305, Northwest West Port Madison Road and Northeast Seabold Road.
  • The aforementioned improvements at the intersection of Agatewood Road Northeast. A right in/right out – typically built with raised concrete islands – limits access to right turns off 305 and right turns onto 305. This feature reduces the potential for collisions as a right in/right out eliminates left turns in front of oncoming traffic, the WSDOT said.
  • Users of the Agatewood Road – who have told WSDOT is very difficult to turn left onto SR 305 – would instead turn right onto the highway and then return via the roundabout at Northeast Adas Will Lane.

Roundabout November 2023 article image courtesy of COBI - 2.jpgDriving patterns will obviously shift within the project area, especially in the vicinity of Adas Will Road, with the removal of the left turn lane for north bound vehicles turning left (west) across traffic and onto Adas Will.

A short stretch of Seabold Road between 305 and Komedal Road will be closed for the duration of the project and will require detours. Overnight work is being proposed and a noise variance permit has been granted for work outside of normal working hours, said City officials. Exact days and times remain to be determined.

Drivers should stay alert, expect delays and be patient as WSDOT contractor crews work to install these improvements designed to strategically increase safety and decrease the risk of serious accidents, added WSDOT officials. What the highway will look like during the summer tourism season is anyone’s guess.

Why we use roundabouts?

WSDOT currently has about 100 roundabouts on other state highways in Washington. These benefits include helping reduce the potential for crashes while keeping traffic moving. There are several reasons why roundabouts help reduce the likelihood and severity of collisions:

  • Low travel speeds – Drivers must slow down and yield to traffic before entering a roundabout. Speeds in the roundabout are typically between 15 and 20 miles per hour. The few collisions that occur in roundabouts are typically minor and cause few injuries since they occur at such low speeds.
  • No light to beat – Roundabouts are designed to promote a continuous flow of traffic. Drivers need only yield to traffic before entering a roundabout; if there is no traffic in the roundabout, drivers are not required to stop. Because traffic is constantly flowing through the intersection, drivers don’t have the incentive to speed up to try and “beat the light,” like they might at a traditional intersection.
  • One-way travel – Roads entering a roundabout are gently curved to direct drivers into the intersection and help them travel counterclockwise around the roundabout. The curved roads and one-way travel around the roundabout eliminate the possibility for T-bone and head-on collisions.

Source Material: Washington State Department of Transportation, the City of Bainbridge Island and our own reporting.

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