A pair of rural roads in Woodbine that currently make all drivers come to a complete stop where they cross are getting a design improvement.
The borough is turning the intersection of Dennisville-Petersburg Road and Woodbine-Ocean View Road into a roundabout, a smaller and safer circular path than the dreaded and mostly abandoned traffic circle.
Roundabouts have a long history, are popular around the world and gaining in appreciation in the United States. The N.J. Department of Transportation considers them where appropriate, typically simple intersections with good sight lines.
Their small size and tighter path keeps vehicle speeds low, making it much easier for cars to enter and exit. Lower speeds, fewer vehicles stopping and no stop signs to miss (possibly causing a broadside collision) mean accidents are much less destructive to vehicles and occupants when they occur.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75% at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used.
Information from the state Transportation Research Board suggested a roundabout proposed for an Absecon intersection a few years ago would reduce crashes by 35% and injuries by 76%.
The image of roundabouts was tarnished for years by the experience of New Jersey drivers with much larger traffic circles, which once numbered about 100 in the state. South Jersey got the state’s first traffic circle in Pennsauken in 1925, but today there are fewer than 20 left.
That’s because their larger size makes higher speeds a certainty. As state traffic volumes soared, drivers struggled to enter these vehicular roller derbies, too often resulting in confusion, congestion and collisions.
The existing stop signs and the flashing stop light will be removed at the Woodbine roundabout, allowing drivers to simply slow and proceed, the light traffic on the roads permitting. The project is being funded in part by a Federal Highway Administration’s Safety Improvement Program grant and should be completed by the end of June.
A roundabout comfortably and safely handles traffic at Mullica Hill Road (Route 322) and Rowan Boulevard at the Rowan University campus in Glassboro, but South Jersey could use another example of this once neglected and newly appreciated road design.
Surely there are other intersections in somewhat rural South Jersey that could benefit from it.