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Hwy. 17 roundabout open; how the heck does it work? (10/10/2012)
By Emily Buss

Image submitted by Winona County Highway Department
     An illustration shows the direction traffic will flow using the new roundabout. Read the article for more details.

At the end of the day today, the orange cones will be gone, construction equipment will be off the road, and permanent signage guiding the way around Winona’s first roundabout will be posted. Three weeks ahead of schedule, the $3.39 million project connecting County Road 17 and County Road 15 is completed.

But, does anyone really know how to navigate a roundabout?

Roundabouts seem to be popping up in communities around the area. They are designed to maximize safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists without the use of traffic signals. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, intersections that have been converted to roundabouts show a 39 percent decrease in all crashes and an 89 percent decrease in fatal crashes. Winona County Engineer Dave Kramer said this positive statistic was a big selling factor for the county.

“There was a natural evolution to create an intersection with a higher safety rating and this was the first opportunity that presented itself,” Kramer said. “Constructing a roundabout at this intersection was the best option out of all the alternatives that were studied.”

How to navigate the roundabout

A roundabout is a circle in which traffic is allowed to flow almost continuously around a central island. Drivers enter and exit the roundabout at one of up to four intersecting roads, three in the case of the Winona roundabout.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) cautions all drivers to slow down to approach the roundabout. Drivers will enter this roundabout using one of three roads – County Road 17 from the north, Pleasant Valley/County Road 17 from the south, and Homer Road from the southeast.

Islands separate the lanes, guiding the driver into the roundabout and keeping the driver on trajectory. It is important to always yield to traffic that is already in the roundabout when you are about to enter it.

For example, on County Road 17 coming from Winona, an island separates the roundabout entrance from the road into Pleasant Valley. If your destination from Winona is Signature’s or Bridges Golf Course, proceed into Pleasant Valley in the right lane.To get to Winona Middle School, enter the roundabout, continue around the center island and exit on Homer Road.

From Pleasant Valley to Winona, enter the roundabout and exit onto County Road 17. Traffic exiting the roundabout will be in the left lane on County Road 17. From Pleasant Valley to the Middle School, do not enter the roundabout, just keep veering to the right.

From Homer, traffic heading to Winona should stay to the right of the island and not enter the roundabout. Traffic heading to Pleasant Valley should steer to the left, enter the roundabout, continue around the center island and exit on Pleasant Valley Road, Hwy. 17.

Kramer said roundabouts can be daunting for drivers who have never experienced that type of intersection before, but he said with a little patience and willingness to learn, drivers will get the hang of it.

“Certainly there will be a good number of people who will need some time to get used to the roundabout,” he noted. “If people follow the signs and drive slowly, I have complete confidence that soon the intersection will be no big deal.”

Animated illustrations are available on the Mn/DOT website that provide a visual of how to navigate a roundabout.

http://www.dot.state.mn.us/roundabouts/ 

 

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