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Roundabouts aid in evacuation

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By The Staff

Los Alamos is an island in the sky, comparable to other island communities. One other is St. Simons Island, Georgia, a coastal barrier island with a similar population size. Los Alamos was evacuated in 2000 due to the Cerro Grande fire; St Simons was evacuated in 1999 due to Hurricane Floyd. Or rather, evacuation was attempted. As Los Alamos has N.M. 502, St. Simons has a causeway.

The causeway became gridlocked, with all six lanes full of standing traffic and some vehicles overheated or ran out of fuel. The gridlock propagated to all the main roads on the island. The primary cause was determined to be signalized intersections. Now the two largest intersections on the island have been replaced by a one-way traffic loop and a modern roundabout.

In the past I doubted the merits of roundabouts, but now I know from using them how safe and effective they are. I drive to St. Simons Island regularly and can attest the new traffic loop and roundabout are far superior to the old stoplights they replaced.

Traffic is heavier, faster, less congested, smoother, calmer and safer. All these qualities are good for commuters, residents, and local businesses alike. In fact, local businesses are thriving on the increase in day trip visitors who come just to shop and dine, now that the traffic is so much more pleasant. And all this was achieved without widening any roads.

An important feature of roundabouts is their high reliability. They do not depend on functioning lights, sensors in the roadbed, or complex electronic timing. They are fail-safe. This is one reason why they are used increasingly on evacuation routes.

Also, roundabouts can be combined with median barriers to make roads safer by eliminating crossing traffic (left hand turns). Instead of turning left, drivers can use a roundabout to reverse direction before or after turning right. This is called right-in/right-out, or RIRO.

The new roundabout on St. Simons Island earned a Georgia state engineering excellence award for dramatically improving the traffic level of service, improving the aesthetics of the area and disrupting none of the adjacent 13 commercial properties.

Here in Los Alamos the new roundabout at the far end of Diamond Drive is a big improvement over the old 4-way stop intersection, and I support roundabouts in place of stoplights at other key intersections in the townsite and White Rock.

Una Smith

Los Alamos