Roundabout To Replace Traffic Lights

Fix Designed To Help Carlton St.

Posted: September 12, 2013


HARRISONBURG — City Council on Tuesday authorized the Harrisonburg Public Works Department to add a roundabout on Carlton Street and eliminate two flashing traffic signals downtown.


The roundabout, at Carlton’s intersection with Reservoir Street, was the subject of a public meeting at Spotswood Elementary School last month. Comments received from residents did not spark changes to the plan, so council adopted the original alignment for the project.


The roundabout will take up about 120 feet of open field on the school property. It is designed to enhance traffic flow and increase safety by eliminating left turns from Carlton onto Reservoir.


It also will be easier for pedestrians to cross Reservoir Street because they will only need to pay attention to one direction of travel, said Drew Williams, the assistant director of public works.


The roughly $1.5 million project is expected to break ground next summer and wrap up in fall 2015. The city and Virginia Department of Transportation are splitting costs.


Erasing Driver Memory


The flashing signals that will be removed are at North Liberty and West Wolfe streets and North Liberty and Elizabeth streets.


Current and projected traffic conditions rendered the signals unneeded, said Brad Reed, a transportation planner with public works. The city will save money by not having to inspect and maintain the signals, he said.

In July 2002, Harrisonburg switched from normal traffic signals to flashing red and yellow lights at the intersections (the flashing yellow is for drivers on Liberty Street).


That caused crashes because of confusion over what the flashing red meant. Some motorists apparently did not realize they need to stop at a flashing red light and treat it just as they would an ordinary red light or stop sign.


The city then added stop signs on Wolfe and Elizabeth streets in November 2002 to complement the flashing red, cutting down on crashes.


Orange flags will now likely be placed atop the stop signs to help drivers transition to the latest change.

“It’s a learning experience,” Mayor Ted Byrd said. “A lot of people drive from memory.”


Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or

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