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October 25, 2018

Town’s new roundabout presents a learning curve

Video: Click above to watch vehicles use the new roundabout Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 24.
The new traffic circle lies at East Shirley Avenue and Falmouth Street.
If you’re coming from town, it makes it easier . . . . I think it’s an improvement.
— George Sasser
New Traffic Circle
• Where: East Shirley Avenue and Falmouth Street near Walmart in Warrenton.

• Inside diameter: 50 feet.

• Cost: $420,000. 

• Construction: Started Sept. 24, ended Oct. 23.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Motorists have begun to navigate Warrenton’s first traffic circle or “roundabout” on a major street.

A Manassas contractor finished the mini roundabout in front of Walmart — at East Shirley Avenue and Falmouth Street — on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

The traffic circle has an inside diameter of 50 feet and a “bypass” lane for southbound vehicles including those turning right into the Walmart parking lot. 

“If you’re coming from town, it makes it easier to get onto Business 29 (East Shirley Avenue),” said George Sasser who lives off Springs Road west of town. “I think it’s an improvement.”

Mr. Sasser said Wednesday that he had used the roundabout several times to get to Walmart and on his way to the landfill. He thinks it makes the Falmouth Street intersection safer.

“It seems to work smooth,” Mr. Sasser said. “I’m a fan of roundabouts . . . . Roundabouts move traffic better than anything. Culpeper is a good example.”

Warrenton’s town council approved the roundabout in March 2017. 

Midland resident Gayle Foley used it for the first time Wednesday morning on her way to Walmart.

Coming from Falmouth Street, “I had trouble getting to the right to get into Walmart,” Ms. Foley said.

“I think it’s a busy section to have a roundabout. I think a traffic light would’ve been better . . . . with all the industrial traffic and shoppers going to Walmart,” she added.

Although Ms. Foley has used roundabouts in Culpeper, Loudoun County and elsewhere, the one in Warrenton “seemed busier and a little bit harder to follow. But, of course, it was my first time.”

The town in July awarded a $382,166 contract to M&F Concrete of Manassas for the project — the lowest of four bids. The final cost came to about $420,000, according to Warrenton Public Works and Utilities Deputy Director Paul Bernard. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation last year estimated the roundabout would cost $434,000, about the same as installing traffic signals. 

Walmart “proffered” $180,000 for intersection improvements when it expanded the store about five years ago. VDOT will pay for about 50 percent of the project. Warrenton budgeted $37,000 in its fiscal 2017 capital projects fund for the project.

Construction started on Sept. 24 and took a month.

The speed limit drops to 25 mph near the roundabout. 

“I have no issue with them,” Hume resident Richell Lindinger said of traffic circles.

Ms. Lindinger suggested drivers will need several trips through the roundabout to learn how to use it.

“I’m sure if people yield instead of stop, they’ll be able to flow through easily,” she said. “It’s supposed to help with the flow of traffic.”

Advanced Automotive, a car repair business on Industrial Road, stands near the circle. Manager Gary Keller said the construction made it difficult to get in and out. But, he doesn’t think the roundabout will affect the business in the long run.

“It’s tight going through there in a pickup truck” and may present challenges when a tow truck tries to navigate the roundabout, Mr. Keller said.

Already, he has seen “people go straight across the roundabout and go over it.

“It’s kind of confusing at first. I guess people will get used to it,” Mr. Keller said.

The town’s Mr. Bernard noted: “While large through trucks are prohibited, and have always been prohibited on this section of road, the center of the circle is designed that those that must go through for local deliveries can go over it.”

Designed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety, the roundabout fit within the existing right-of-way, requiring no land acquisition. 

“Yesterday, I saw two to three people run up over it,” said John Myers, a body shop employee who stopped by Advanced Auto.

“If you’re pulling a trailer, you’re going to go up on it. Look at all the marks on it now,” Mr. Myers said.

Mr. Bernard said the roundabout already works well so far with “traffic calming.”

“Once you are in the circle, you have the right-of-way and, coming from the outside of the circle, you have to yield,” he added.

For more information on how to use a roundabout, click here.

Contact Cassandra Brown at CBrown@FauquierNow.com or 540-878-6007.

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Rover 530 · October 28, 2018 at 7:34 pm
I drove through the roundabout from all three entrances. Because VDOT chose to build within the existing right-of-way, the circle is too small and very tight through which to drive. I observed a pick-up truck towing a trailer drive straight THROUGH the circle rather than driving around it in the designated lanes. Why no barriers in place to never allow this to happen? Very dangerous situation. The designers, contractors, local VDOT officials, and the town council should be taken to task for this traffic joke. But, this is Fauquier County and most likely nothing with happen. The citizens just eat it. Great idea, useful in many areas but poor execution here.
rally39 · October 25, 2018 at 4:39 pm
Great idea. It’s about time we started implementing traffic control measures that keep cars moving and traffic flowing. I’ve read a few negative comments about this. I encourage people to educate themselves on the subject. Here’s a good place to start

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/innovative/roundabouts/
Melrose Carter · October 25, 2018 at 11:25 am
If only everyone would use their turn signals, the direction they are going would be clearer.
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