A roundabout story
To the Editor:
Our state transportation officials tell us that proposed “traffic-calming” Apponaug roundabouts will make going to and from work a more pleasant experience. Unfortunately, the Apponaug environment assessment finds that there is not enough money to make them work right. So now the state is trying to raise an additional $10 million in federal funds from a competitive TIGER grant program to get the job done.
Regardless of how the roundabouts perform, relief may be short-lived for commuters as they make their way through Apponaug to and from work – or Dunkin’ Donuts. This is because the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) has requested federal funds to relocate Main Avenue. And when might that occur? The same summer that Apponaug is slated to be all dug up. Can you imagine the bottleneck? For those who still have jobs, the summer of 2016 may seem like a summer without end.
Even with the additional $10 million, will the roundabouts work? Alaskans found out the hard way that the side-by-side, two-lane roundabout layout – the same one used in the Apponaug design – maxes out at about 1,200 cars per hour. This is because most drivers use the right lane to exit the roundabout at the first or second exit. That’s one car cutting off Greenwich Avenue every three seconds at a projected speed of 35 miles per hour. Apponaug needs a three-lane, side-by-side roundabout strategy to accommodate 2,000 cars per hour. But apparently Rhode Island has money for only two lanes. Aside from the number of cars, little about this plan seems to add up.
Up near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the Malta roundabout system is about to be tested. GlobalFoundries Inc., now employs 2,000 people on a wooded industrial campus four miles from two Albany-to-Montreal Northway (I-87) exits, exits 10 and 11. GloFo is about to double its employment. The critical Route 9/Route 67 roundabout near the plant had to be modified in 2009, forcing all traffic leaving the plant for Exit 10 into a single lane due to turning accidents and sideswipes. Plans to build a separate I-87 Exit 11 A to the plant have now been abandoned due to lack of funding. Neighbors are especially concerned about this development because many workers on their way home from the plant ignore the yield sign and won’t let local citizens into the roundabout. Citizens are calling for traffic cameras with automatic yield sign violation equipment. Plant workers don’t like that idea.
Here in Apponaug, those trying to get to work driving south from Greenwich Avenue won’t have a chance against this morning rush of traffic passing Honey Dew Donuts. Computer models show that it could take three or more minutes for a Greenwich Avenue driver to get into the loop in the morning. Alaska studies also show that pedestrians are especially imperiled when everybody’s looking to the left to find that tiny opening to gun it into traffic. In Alaska, 50 to 60 cars queue up to enter the Anchorage roundabout built 10 years ago to the same specifications suggested for Apponaug. Walkers and bikers would need to be issued red flags and reflectorized vests to get through Apponaug.
Until a month ago, the Rhode Island State Transportation Planning Committee had committed $27.7 million to complete an Apponaug Bypass. Now the cost is set at $33 million, with a $10 million gap. RIPTA wants the $10 million for trolleys connecting the East Side of Providence with the hospitals. With Warwick’s mayor serving as chairman of RIPTA, I’m not sure how all the politics will play out. By the way, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has cut all funding to the TIGER transportation funding program. So maybe we won’t get our traffic calmers after all. And we may be looking at the now abandoned Bank of America building, complete with high weeds and other signs of urban decay, for years to come.
We should have fixed the Apponaug Four Corners right-turn situation when the Gulf station was abandoned. Too late now, as some new operator is trying to make a living selling gas there.