Complete streets is an approach to road planning and design that considers and balances the needs of all transportation users.
Richfield, Minnesota, located south of Minneapolis, began a Complete Streets redesign in 2013. So how did it turn out? A retrospective study has found that while construction impacts remain on the minds of business owners and residents, Richfield’s program has improved community life and traffic times citywide. Safety and multimodal use are expected to improve.
Minnesotans have grown accustomed to roundabouts as they’ve proliferated throughout the state, but many motorists are still confused by the less common two-lane roundabout.
While roundabouts have been shown to reduce vehicle delay and severe crashes, the few Minnesota cities with this type of multi-lane roundabout have had a prevalence of driver mistakes.
In Woodbury, two such roundabouts were converted into smaller, one-circulating-lane designs due to driver confusion.
The City of Richfield had no such option at the high-volume Portland Avenue and 66th Street, a formerly signalized intersection that carries about 30,000 vehicles per day. (See video)
Crash-prone and congested prior to its reconstruction in 2008, a two-lane roundabout seemed to be the practical solution for this intersection. But although the roundabout reduced overall crashes, the intersection still had more fender benders than designers were comfortable with, according to City Engineer Kristin Asher.
“The crashes were primarily related to improper left-turns from the outside lane and failure to yield at the entry,” she said.
Not only were drivers unsure which lanes they should use to enter or exit the roundabout, they didn’t know how to respond to other cars inside the roundabout. (See news story)
“People don’t understand they have to yield to both lanes inside the roundabout,” explained University of Minnesota researcher John Hourdos.
The city of Richfield extended the solid lines leading up to the intersection from 50 to 250 feet to encourage drivers to choose the correct lane before entering the roundabout. It also replaced fish-hook-style roundabout signs with traditional lane designation signs and did away with complex striping patterns.
Hourdos examined two years of traffic data to see how motorists responded to the improvements that were made in 2011.
He found 50 percent more drivers entered the correct lane from the get-go, which led to a reduction in improper turns within the roundabout. Lane violations were also reduced by 20 percent.
“One of the main problems was drivers didn’t know they have to choose one of the two lanes,” Hourdos explained. “Then once they were inside the roundabout, they were forced to either deviate from their course or commit a violation.”
The city also increased sign visibility to address yielding problems; however, these changes didn’t seem to make a difference.
With state and federal guidelines lacking much guidance for how to sign two-lane roundabouts, the LRRB is funding a new study for three other multi-lane roundabouts: in St. Cloud, at Highway 169/494 and one planned for the future realignment of County Roads 101 and 61 between Chanhassen and Shakopee.