IBT goes roundabout in Bradenton, Florida

Another roundabout is being built in the US where the public remains sceptical but agencies and contractors are on board, writes David Armina
Highway & Network Management / November 26, 2019 10min. Read
US roundabout - PIC 1.jpg
The start of a roundabout: IBT of Miami wins $5 million deal to install a roundabout in Florida

Global construction company IBT, based in Miami, won a contract in late 2017 to install a roundabout on State Road 64 near Bradenton, in the southern state of Florida. The deal is part of a road improvement project with the 2697 Florida Department of Transportation.

Although worth only $5 million, the 13-month construction work it is not a big infrastructure contract. But it’s a relatively large shift in road design thinking for Florida which has few roundabouts. It also signals another small shift towards having more roundabouts throughout the US highway network.

For IBT, the Florida contract includes multi-lane roundabout construction, milling and resurfacing, drainage improvements, lighting and signing, landscaping improvements, intelligent transportation system relocation and utility works.

For the public, it means a safer junction.

Daniel Toledano, managing director of IBT of Miami, is keen on roundabouts. “State Road 64 is becoming the next major highway in this area and we believe the roundabouts are the best solution to slow traffic at this intersection, which is considered to be dangerous by local residents,” he said.

 

Washington state is forging ahead with roundabouts while sceptics circle (photo courtesy WSDoT)
Washington state is forging ahead with roundabouts while sceptics circle (photo courtesy WSDoT)

“The Florida Department of Transportation is actively promoting the  installation of modern roundabouts throughout the state highway system due to their proven safety and operational benefits,” according to the department’s website. “Currently, there are approximately 20 roundabouts operating on the state highway system and over 300 roundabouts on local roads throughout the State.

“For many people, roundabouts are a new concept. This requires a tailored public involvement approach and a combined education and communications strategy,” notes the department.

The US has traditionally been cautious about building roundabouts whose construction has increased and waned over the past years.

Few, if any, were built in 1990, according to data collected by US engineering analysist Kittelson & Associates and the US’s Federal Highway Administration. In 2000, 129 were constructed. By 2010, more than 300 were being built – the peak of construction. This has gradually dropped to less than 100 by last year.

Washington state is forging ahead with roundabouts while sceptics circle (photo courtesy WSDoT)
Washington state is forging ahead with roundabouts while sceptics circle (photo courtesy WSDoT)

Despite the downturn in construction, it appears that the political will remains high to keep roundabouts as an option, if not a requirement, for road development, according to a recent article by columnist Justin Fox, writing for the US financial news agency Bloomberg*. Fox notes that Lee Rodegerdts, from Kittelson & Associates, has said that the drive towards roundabout construction has been - and will be - led by strong leadership, both public and private, when it comes to developing them and convincing road users that they can work.

A starting point for anyone interested in developing roundabouts in the US is a 2010 publication. The weighty tome of 407 pages belies its easily understood chapters that read like a primer on what to do and how to do it. Indeed, Kittelson’s Rodegerdts was the principal investigator for the report,

Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, Second Edition.

If roundabouts work it is because they save lives. This is what may not be apparent to US road users who often see them as foreign, something from Europe, a nuisance and simply dangerous. So who is taking the lead for creating more roundabouts in the US?

Washington state is forging ahead with roundabouts while sceptics circle (photo courtesy WSDoT)
Washington state is forging ahead with roundabouts while sceptics circle (photo courtesy WSDoT)

Many departments of transportation are spearheading the move. The website of the 914 Washington State Department of Transportation has a section extolling the virtues of roundabouts and posted information for drivers who encounter them. The argument for roundabouts is safer roads.

The Washington DoT says that studies have shown roundabouts to be safer than traditional stop sign or signal-controlled intersections. Roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75% at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control, according to a study by the Insurance 3954 Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Also, studies by the IIHS and 2410 Federal Highway Administration have shown that roundabouts typically achieve a 37% reduction in overall collisions, a 75% drop in injury collisions and a huge 90% reduction in fatality collisions. There is also a 40% reduction in pedestrian collisions.

The reasons for the reductions are many, according to department. Low vehicle speeds, not running red lights and the travel through a roundabout is only one way.

But media reports in Washington state also show the introduction of roundabouts has been accompanied by a major public relations drive locally where they will be installed, as well as town hall meetings and consultations.

*Technology and Ideas section, Bloomberg.com, October 3, 2018.