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Some roundabout critics come full circle on traffic experiment WEST COUNTY--Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon


For 35 years, Ruby Cope has lived with fast cars, noise and blood.

The 73-year-old Lisbon resident doesn't drive in the Indianapolis 500. She lives in a little house at the corner of routes 94 and 144.

"I have called 911 many times. We've had some real bad accidents," she said as the cars and trucks rolled by.

After watching the traffic circumnavigate State Highway Administration's experimental "roundabout" for two weeks, Mrs. Cope believes her days of thunder are behind her.

"It makes it a little hard to get out of the driveway, but I'm very proud to have this thing out here," she said.

Mrs. Cope was held out by opponents of the temporary traffic circle as one of the many who would suffer inconvenience, aggravation, or worse as a result of the experiment.

After all, she had been one of the many people in Lisbon who did not think the roundabout would be a good idea.

"I didn't think it was a good idea at first -- I couldn't picture how it would work. I totally agree with it now."

SHA spokeswoman Liz Kalinowski said Mrs. Cope's reaction is typical of many who have had a chance to see the experiment in place since it opened April 16.

"Weighing the comments that are coming in, there are slightly more in favor now," Ms. Kalinowski said. "We really haven't had complaints from everyone that says they can't get through it or don't understand it."

There are still some Lisbon residents however, who "call regularly to say they just don't like it," she added.

Also in the "no" column is Dennis Sparks, a 34-year-old concrete contractor from Mount Airy.

"I don't like it. It seems like it causes too much confusion. Nobody seems to know what's going on," he said as he stopped off recently at Lee's Market.

But Jan Brendel had nothing but praise for the new traffic device.

"I like it because it reduces the possibility of one of our teen-agers getting killed in a head-on collision," she said. "We've lost three kids in our 4-H group in the past five years . . . two in the past year" at similar west county intersections.

Still, there are some die-hard roundabout opponents left in Lisbon, chief among them Dot Gray, who works at Lee's and makes sure everyone in town knows how she feels.

"I've seen two cars go through it at once. I've seen people take a left and go through it . . . because they didn't want to go all the way around it," she said.

But Donald Mayne, 39, a Westminster resident who visits his brother in Lisbon frequently, said there was more trouble with the old intersection.

"I think it's a good idea. I've been through it about 20 times and so far, its no problem. The only thing you've got to do is yield to the person that's in the circle and take your turn."

By contrast, Mr. Mayne said he often had to wait much longer at the stop sign and flashing red light on Route 144 before speeding traffic on Route 94 let up.

Protest about the roundabout from some folks didn't stop with words or phone calls, said one Lisbon resident, who didn't want to be named.

He said he watched a four-wheel-drive truck drive over the circle's neatly mulched collection of shrubs and saplings at about 1:30 a.m. on the first Saturday the roundabout was in place.

"He went over it three times and was going to go over it a fourth time," but appeared to be discouraged by the sight of an approaching car, the resident said.

The temporary roundabout is to stay up for three to six months. At the end of that period, SHA traffic engineers will evaluate its effectiveness and gage the communitys' reaction to it before deciding whether it will be permanent.

If it is a success, SHA officials would like to use them around the state at similar intersections.

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