Circling drivers in St. Matthews have potential to stop crashes - News, Weather & Sports

Circling drivers in St. Matthews have potential to stop crashes

A traffic roundabout on Chamberlain Lane A traffic roundabout on Chamberlain Lane
Barry Zalph Barry Zalph

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Subtle changes could equal a major makeover for traffic in one neighborhood. Soon it could spread across Metro Louisville.  

Two intersections in St. Matthews will be converted into traffic circles this spring: at Nanz Avenue & Iola Road, and Nanz & Macon Avenue.  

Removing the stop signs in favor of right turn yields has yet to catch on in Louisville. Very few Metro intersections use traffic circles or their larger version, the roundabout. But Louisville is now modeling a pilot program on one used in Seattle, where they're so popular, neighborhoods are clamoring for the change. 

If you say you're going in circles, very rarely is that a good thing. Barry Zalph said circular driving through two St. Matthews intersections has the potential to be very good. 

"They tend to slow the traffic so that people don't exceed the 25 mile per hour speed limit and they also reduce crashes," said Zalph. 

It was Zalph who suggested putting in the two traffic circles. As a cyclist, he likes them because traffic circles mean fewer stops leading to an easier ride. 

"It takes twice as much energy - personal energy - to maintain that speed if you have to stop at every block," Zalph says of stopping and starting. 

For drivers, Metro Public Works says studies have shown taking the stops out of intersections has the potential to reduce crashes by at least a third. 

Parts of Metro Louisville are already driving in circles. Chamberlain Lane has a large roundabout just outside the entrance to Norton Commons. The smaller-sibling traffic circles in St. Matthews will be about half that size. Zalph says the St. Matthews circles will require no repaving, just some new signs and the islands that go in the middle.  

"The experience so far has been that once people see them and deal with them, they really like them," said Zalph.  

Metro Public Works said the weather will have an impact on when traffic starts circling at the two intersections. Hopefully, they'll be in place by April. Each one would take around a week to complete and Zalph said they cost about $5,000 each. 

While this is a pilot program, Metro Public Works said it's had requests from other neighborhoods who want circles in their area. It's working to develop a policy, similar to the one it uses for speed humps, to determine where they should go.

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