As the Florida Department of Transportation prepares to build its third roundabout on a short stretch of State Road 64 in the Lakewood Ranch area, a department spokesman said the strategy appears to be working.
FDOT Public Information Officer Adam Rose said very few complaints have been filed about the first two roundabouts.
In May 2018, the FDOT added its first roundabout to State Road 64, at the intersection of Rye Road and White Eagle Boulevard, while in 2020, it added a second at the intersection of Greyhawk Boulevard and Pope Road.
Now, the department is acquiring land to build a third, at Lorraine Road.
Rose said based on the preliminary analysis by the FDOT, no spikes in crashes have been observed.
Since the roundabouts are still relatively new, Rose said it will take more time to compile enough data to consider the numbers to be an accurate reflection of effectiveness. Rose said studies will be initiated to understand how the roundabouts are working to alleviate traffic and to make the stretch of highway safer.
So far, however, feedback from road maintenance workers and from preliminary evaluations has been positive. However, the lack of any major studies at this time means no unusual issues have been found, according to Rose.
He said comprehensive studies are undertaken if the FDOT receives numerous complaints from motorists or local law enforcement.
When there are problems, such as traffic jams or crashes, he said those who drive the road tend to voice their displeasure.
Rationale for roundabouts
The roundabouts, he said, are built for numerous reasons. Above-average numbers of crashes top the list. When those numbers come to light, the FDOT initiates an intersection control evaluation.
“We always try to evaluate every solution,” he said.
National studies have indicated that roundabouts are safer options at intersections. Rose said they change the direction in which accidents occur. Instead of broadside crashes, accidents in traffic circles tend to be more in the sideswipe category.
Rose said roundabouts normally improve that area’s traffic flow because motorists don’t have to make a full stop. Drivers who get impatient at a signal light are usually less affected by a traffic circle.
He said roundabouts reduce maintenance costs due to the lack of electrical components involved. However, the FDOT is not planning any additional roundabouts on State Road 64 after the one at Lorraine Road is built.
On State Road 70, several roundabouts are planned between Lorraine Road and County Road 675.
Rose said roundabouts that will go to bid in 2024 include S.R. 70’s intersections with Uihlein Road, Del Webb Boulevard, and Bourneside Boulevard.
Additional roundabouts are planned for S.R. 70’s intersection with Lindrick Lane, 231th Street East, Panther Ridge Trail, and Waterbury Road, but no bid date is planned yet.
Rose said the area’s growth could change future plans depending on the flow of traffic. Rose said a five-year study is the norm before adding a roundabout.
However, the FDOT is ready to react if necessary.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in growth,” he said. “I think it’s well known that our state has grown very quickly due to the pandemic, and there have been a lot more people relocating down here.”
Lorraine Road update
The FDOT is in the process of adding a third East County roundabout at Lorraine Road and State Road 64.
The roundabout is in the right-of-way acquisition phase, Rose said. This means the FDOT must acquire the necessary land before it can perform any work in the area.
Once construction gets rolling, Rose doesn't anticipate any supply shortage problems. The FDOT buys its supplies from both local and out of state vendors far in advance.
Once construction is underway, he said, drivers should look out for changes to the configuration of traffic, as well as changes to speed limits, although the specifics of the construction still need to be determined. Normally for projects such as this one, lane closures will take place at night in order to limit the intrusions caused by traffic.
“Always be aware of your surroundings, making sure that you're going slow around work zones, looking out for the safety of the workers and yourself,” he said.