Monday, June 1, 2009

A Roundabout Argument

(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)

Recently, there has been talk among city officials to reorient some of the most tricky Baltimore intersections, and replacing them with roundabouts. This seems like something one would see in DC, the counties, or New Jersey, but not Baltimore. For many of us in the city, the closest one we know if is the famed Towson Circle. Now, in all fairest, this example isn't the best when it comes to "properly designed traffic circles"; but generally speaking, this is the only one most people encounter, so you can understand the hesitance.

I, for one, understand the core principles of a roundabout. Yield to the traffic already in the circle, then proceed, and most importantly remember to use your directionals. Not that difficult. However, I do see a potential drawback to the one proposed at the intersection of Light Street and Key Highway. I just can't visualize how this will be accomplished.

First off, there are a lot of lanes there. Three coming in from Key Highway. Three coming North on Light. Two turning on Light Street onto Key, and two continuing South, but then (very quickly) merging to one lane as it continues on Light into Federal Hill. Complicating things is Hughes Street, which drivers can only turn onto when travelling South on Light Street. I don't see where the space is for a roundabout without making a mess. Traffic lanes would have to be narrowed.

Secondly, and most importantly, is this will make the pedestrian experience potentially worse. With a light, walkers have the ability to walk with relative ease and safety. Without a traffic light dictating who moves and when, pedestrians would be at the mercy of the driver to yield to them (which we all know in Baltimore is asking a lot for a minor consideration).

Lastly, there is always that far flung idea of extending a potential streetcar line from the Inner Harbor down Key Highway to Locust Point and Fort McHenry. Sure, this is just a "wouldn't that be sweet", but would make it all the harder to do since Streetcars don't do well navigating roundabouts. Even if a streetcar is a maybe, it's still something to consider.

A roundabout would be an interesting idea down for a gateway to Federal Hill/Locust Point. A fountain or maybe a statue (of Francis Scott Key?) would be a nice focal piece. It just has to be done perfectly, that's all I'm saying. Especially if I plan on walking nearby.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree - I have eaten dinner on the Towson Circle and watched the madness. Both cars and pedestrians were in jeopardy, and there was a lot of squealing and honking. I can't imagine Light Street Circle being an improvement - it is really not even that hard to traverse now.