PORT ORCHARD — While they won’t be in full operation until sometime this spring, the two new Tremont Street roundabouts — at the South Kitsap Boulevard and Pottery Avenue intersections — should help move traffic along faster and more uniformly on one of the city’s busiest arterials.
According to Brian Walsh, a traffic design engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation, roundabouts are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., as they have been for many decades in Europe.
The multi-lane roundabouts, whose design is based on creating better vehicle traffic flow at slower speeds, will take some getting used to for many Port Orchard drivers. These multi-lane traffic design elements are new to the city. But some other cities in Kitsap and Pierce counties have integrated them into their transportation grids. Gig Harbor is home to a series of roundabouts and Silverdale has a number of similar intersectional locations.
Port Orchard has a single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Bethel Avenue and Mile Hill Drive (it’s the first roundabout built in the state), and it’s a fairly straightforward proposition to understand and maneuver. Drivers yield to oncoming traffic from the left within the roundabout as they approach the circle. But first, they slow down, enter and then turn right from the roundabout at the proper exit. And it would benefit other drivers if they use their turn signals.
The multi-lane variant design, however, requires drivers to understand some additional, but basic, rules of the road. For drivers unfamiliar with multi-lane roundabouts, here’s a brief overview:Roundabouts — single-lane and multi-lane — are in place for two reasons: to slow traffic speeds and create a safer place for directional traffic to travel and turn, Walsh said. Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s director of public works and city engineer, said having controlled and equal entering and exiting speeds are a critical part of the design element. Drivers entering a roundabout always must put their defensive driving skills into play and yield to oncoming traffic as they follow the directional sign’s arrow at the entrance.
Here’s a critical road rule: Decide BEFORE entering the roundabout what lane you wish to travel. And don’t change lanes when you’re inside the circle, Walsh said.
What lane you choose will be dictated by where you want to go. Choose the right lane if you plan to take an immediate right turn. Also stay in this lane if you wish to continue driving straight ahead. Make sure you are in the left lane before reaching the roundabout if you plan to make a left turn, as you would at a regular intersection. You also would stay in the left lane if you want to remain in the inside lane heading forward.
If you need to make a u-turn and head in the opposite direction, get into, or stay in, the left lane before entering the roundabout. Then stay left as you circle around to the inside lane in the opposite direction.
Again, it’s critical to always yield to oncoming traffic in the roundabout. And when you enter, always allow sufficient space between you and the vehicle in front.
Don’t overtake vehicles and change lanes in a roundabout. Stay the course at a slow, steady speed.
Opticom activated traffic signals have been installed at the Pottery roundabout to direct drivers — or halt — all traffic should an emergency vehicle be nearing the intersection.
Dorsey said responders have the option to stop traffic in every direction with the light signals to use the “slip lane” to enter the oncoming lane, or freeze three legs of the roundabout traffic and move on a green light in the emergency vehicle’s lane.