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Roundabout opens on Highway 59

The key to driving through a roundabout is to wait for a gap in traffic and jump in, then stay to the right. All roundabouts in the U.S. move counterclockwise. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The new roundabout is now open at the junction of Highway 59, Willow Street and Long Lake Road.

Here’s how to drive through it: Slow down to about 15 miles per hour, wait until there is a gap in traffic, and jump in, moving to the right, which is counterclockwise.

If there happens to be a pedestrian or bicyclist out there, yield to them.

If an emergency vehicle is coming while you’re in the roundabout, don’t stop immediately, take the first exit out of the roundabout, then pull over and get out of the way.

And no Minnesota nice while driving through the roundabout, either.

“Don’t stop and wave anybody in, you definitely don’t want to do that – then people aren’t trusting whether you’re going or stopping,” says MnDOT project management specialist Tom Lundberg. The idea is to keep traffic moving smoothly through the intersection.

Mercifully, the new Highway 59 roundabout is a simple, one-lane affair, and is not as complicated as some multi-lane roundabouts in the Twin Cities.

After you’ve driven through it a few times, you might even grow to like it.

Roundabouts do offer some advantages, such as processing more cars. A roundabout in general offers a 75 percent reduction in delays; it’s one of the most efficient ways to move traffic through an intersection, Lundberg said.

However, this particular roundabout may be a little less efficient because of traffic signals on both sides, at the Highway 10 and County Road 6 intersections, which send groups of cars through that can monopolize a roundabout from one direction or another.

Roundabouts make for fewer and less serious crashes: We’re talking a 90 percent reduction in fatalities, and a 76 percent reduction in injury accidents.

A crash in a roundabout is likely to be a fender-bender. That’s not true of highway intersections controlled by stop signs or even traffic lights, where T-bone and rear-end accidents can be serious, Lundberg said.

“There’s not many things an engineer can do to make intersections safe,” he said. “But this is one thing that really does a lot for safety.”

Roundabouts are designed with a raised truck apron around a center island. They are designed to keep cars from zipping straight through, and to allow the trailer on a semi to rise up and roll on the truck apron as the big rig goes through the roundabout.

Roundabouts are becoming more popular around the nation, including Minnesota. There are several in the Moorhead and Fergus Falls areas, and Lundberg said motorists quickly get used to them.

“In general there’s a lot of nervousness in something new,” he said. “As people drive through it, it becomes second-nature.”