U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
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After experiencing the safety and operational benefits of roundabouts in their city, Austin Transportation Department (ATD) staff decided to undertake an effort to promote their wider use in Texas. The ATD hosted an informational briefing in an effort to encourage other agencies in the State to begin using roundabouts—a proven strategy for improving safety, operations, and quality of life in local communities. They invited people from fellow public agencies, industry groups, and other stakeholders to learn about Austin's positive experiences with roundabouts. In addition to describing the general benefits of roundabouts at the briefing, they advised attendees how to explore the use of roundabouts in their own cities.
Roundabout Selling Points for Elected Officials, Real Estate Industry, and the Public
The City of Austin experienced rapid growth and faced a number of transportation–related challenges over the last 20 years. That resulted in increased traffic and more congestion, and more people regularly walking and biking throughout the city. Consequently, the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) went looking for creative solutions to address multimodal safety, mobility, and capacity issues — and found roundabouts as one of the solutions.
Realizing that many other cities and local agencies in Texas would benefit from their experience and expertise with roundabouts, ATD decided to share that knowledge with elected officials and professionals in other jurisdictions using an informational briefing as a way to educate and inspire others across the Lone Star state.
Figure 1: Announcement for the Roundabout Informational Briefing
As the state capitol, the City of Austin has the opportunity for regular interaction with elected officials throughout the State. ATD staff also maintains regular communication with peers from other cities and public agencies and professionals in related fields such as emergency response, freight transportation, and consultant services. Over the course of regular discussions with these individuals, ATD determined that roundabouts were an important topic that would benefit from a more formal and detailed discussion tailored to the needs and interests of all stakeholders. Working with supportive state and local elected officials, ATD staff conducted an informational briefing entitled "Enhancing Quality of Life with Roundabouts," at the Texas State Capitol Building. ATD staff led the briefing with roundabout consultants providing much of the technical presentation. Organizers scheduled the briefing to coincide with a two–day workshop on roundabouts for fellow transportation professionals to make the entire effort even more valuable for all parties involved.
Before the briefing, ATD staff provided handouts and other materials to attendees to supplement the formal presentation. As attendees arrived, consultants played a video that highlighted geometric and operational characteristics of roundabouts, comparisons to traffic circles, and methods for all road users to traverse a roundabout. The video and handouts introduced attendees to the basics of well–designed modern roundabouts and their benefits before the actual briefing began.
Figure 2: Roundabout at Auditorium Shores, Austin, TX
Source: Google Earth Pro
The formal technical briefing began with an overview of roundabouts, their characteristics, and how they are designed to operate compared to other intersection designs. The presentation continued with more detailed technical information on roundabouts, describing the ranges of locations where roundabouts are working, and discussing the benefits they can provide to a city. The following points were made about roundabouts:
The briefing brought together a variety of elected officials, decision–makers, and stakeholders with different levels of understanding of the definition and purpose of roundabouts. In addition to addressing questions and concerns, the session provided an opportunity to establish contacts, providing a network resource for stakeholders to continue the discussion in the future. It also allowed public sector and industry peers to meet in a common setting while subject matter experts provided information tailored to their needs and interests. Attendees left the briefing with a better understanding of the characteristics and benefits of modern roundabouts, and the knowledge of how to use roundabouts to improve traffic safety and operations in their communities.
Austin Transportation Department: http://austintexas.gov/department/transportation
Gary W. Schatz, P.E., PTOE
Assistant Director - Transportation Management
Austin Transportation Department
City of Austin, Texas
Intersections Program Manager
FHWA Office of Safety