Roundabouts to the Rescue

Dilemma: Development and traffic are increasing along portions of Rt. 15 in Loudoun County. The two-lane highway, which runs through woods and farmland, is one of the most picturesque in Virginia. How does one accommodate higher volumes of traffic at busy interchanges like Gilbert’s Corner (where U.S. 15 intersects with Rt. 50) without building obtrusive and land-consuming interchanges?

Roundabouts. At least, that’s the hope. The footprint of the roundabout is considerably smaller than that of conventional interchanges. They’re safer: Crashes tend to be sideswipes, not t-bones. And they’re less expensive to build — $16 million, compared to an estimated $70 million at Gilbert’s Corner. The roundabout at that intersection, for which construction has just begun, will increase the traffic capacity of the existing roads significantly — some roundabouts can handle up to 50,000 cars per day — though not as much as an interchange would.

Says Peter Schwartz, co-chairman of the Rt. 50 Task Force: “This is a process that started many, many years ago. It focused on the great effort of moving traffic while still maintaining the history of the area. This project really is an example of what a community can do when it takes an active role in transportation planning.”

Leesburg Today has the story. Here’s the VDOT page on other traffic-calming measures along Rt. 50.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Sure, when a community takes an active role in transportation planning (which they know nothing about) they can keep that historic and utterly scary 1.9 lane bridge in Aldie.

    The light at Gilberts corner causes big delays, and it is probably dangerous as well. No doubt the roundabout will be better. On the other hand, how many times can you remember reports of high speed crashes in the middle of Chevey Chase Circle?


  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    roundabouts function flawlessly in power outages not to mention to savings in electricity and maintenance.

    Roundabouts are just about perfect for roads that primarily serve residential .. they sort of enforce the “everyone takes a turn” civility that is lacking in many folks now days.

    they do tend to befuddle timid and some elderly drivers – typically the same folks who can’t cope with 4-way stops.

  3. Anonymous Avatar


    Dupont Circle

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    would it surprise anyone if it was said that roundabouts are not the same as traffic circles?

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    This will be the only intersection of two US highways by roundabout in the country.

    They may be seen as “picturesque rural roads”, but the turning volume for which the design was engineered was surpassed in 2004, by VDOT’s own traffic counts.

    This will be a cluster of the first magnitude, and will cost more to rip out and do right than it will to “test”.

    The first one of the project is already in place in Upperville. Drive on out there to see where the local horse vans run through the central landscaping, because it wasn’t even engineered for a mainstay of the local village traffic.

    God knows how the snowplows will manage.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    There are roundabouts in new England on Cape Cod at Bourne and Saginaw, and also at the old Otis Air Force base.

    They worked OK until they were overwhelmed by traffic, but they are huge. you could put all of Aldie inside the circle at Otis AFB.

    But then you wouldn’t have a roundabout, you would have a (gasp) bypass.


  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I know this is a shock.. but it is conceivable that highway infrastructure can be badly designed and yes.. that includes roundabouts…

    .. but because we do a bad job on an interstate interchanges.. we don’t outlaw all interchanges…

    that’s the problem with some of the reasonings .. “musings” sometimes..

    In fact.. there are roundabouts that as part of interstate interchanges and they work just dandy…

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m sure the roundabout at Gilberts corner will be an improvement over the traffic light that is there now. Today, the backup westbound was all the way past Lenah, it must be four miles or more, and a dozen light cycles.

    When I pulled into that, my mileage computer was showing and aveage MPg of 48.6 for the past 320 miles on this tank. When I came out, it was showing 48.2 MPG, and the engine was off, much of that time.

    That’s zero RPM’s, Larry.

    That single backup lowered the average MPG for three quarters of a tank by four tenths of an MPG.

    Anyone who tries to tell me that congestion doesn’t cause pollution, who tries to tell me that congestion is our friend, is going to have a fight on their hands.

    I hope the roundabout works. But, given what I saw in Upperville today, I rather doubt it. This thing is going to be deliberately designed to screw things up.



  9. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m a known cheapskate and sceptic of marketing hype, but here is one that works. Last time I changed my oil, on a whim, I tried one of the synthetics.

    It improved my mileage markedly, and it was easily worth the extra cost. Sometimes you pay more for conservation, and actually save money.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    RH, one of the roundabouts on the mainland at Cape Cod is being redone.

    I was up there a couple years ago, and they were digging under Bourne to run the N/S road straight under the existing roundabout, with new ramps for anyone who wanted to access the bridge, or the E/W road.

    Don’t know if they plan to do Sagamore too, but it looks like they had enough of the traffic soup at the northern bridge.

    Maybe because of the Boston commuter traffic backups?

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    I knew they were going to work on the bourne situation. I don’t know how much Boston Commuter traffic is from down there: thats a pretty long haul.

    But the Boston influx to the cape on weekends is massive, and it all happens at once.

    The closest call I ever had to a serious accident was in the Bourne Circle.

    Some people take the ferry from Boston to P’town.

    When I go I fly or take the train to Providence then I take the highspeed Catamaran from New Bedford to Vineyard Haven.

    It is really fast and comfortable, even in rough seas, and, they’ll send a car to the airport to pick you up. Now that is good service.

    Maybe metro could learn something.


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    RH, judging from the Cape local papers and how the real estate is marketed, the western townships may have a bit of our situation here going on: people living the Cape lifestyle an “easy commute” from Beantown, just like people here are told to come on out to Clarke and bring the horses because Route 7 is just minutes away!

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