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FHWA Home / Safety / Intersection / Intersection Safety

Washington County, MN Educates Drivers Through Roundabout U

FHWA-SA-11-024
May 2011

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U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

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Background

In 2007, Washington County, Minnesota, began the process of planning for the widening of a two-lane, all-way, stop-controlled intersection in a residential area to accommodate growth in volume. The County Public Works Department considered implementing a four- or six-lane signal-controlled intersection configuration, but the analysis showed that the expected signalized system would require much more land than county residents and elected officials would approve for construction.

Banner: Effective Print and Web Outreach

Location

  • Washington County, MN (Central United States)

Implementation Stage

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Launch
  • Post-Implementation

Roundabout Type/Setting

  • Single- and Multi-lane Roundabouts in Urban and Rural Settings

Target Audience

  • General Public
  • Elected Officials/Mangers

Strategies Employed

  • Logo use across all materials
  • Educational website
  • Brochures (benefits of roundabouts, how to drive roundabouts, roundabout "rules of the road")
  • Public meetings (including Open Houses, Booths and Grocery Stores, and County Fairs)
  • Promotional items (balloons, stickers, food, etc.)
  • Mock-walkable roundabout
  • Advertisements in newspapers

Brochure explains how to navigate a roundabout.
Figure 2: Brochure describing, in a visually appealing manner, how to successfully navigate a multi-lane roundabout.

Handout distributed to traffic violaters to explain the roundabout laws.
Figure 3: Police Officers distribute handouts like this to citizens pulled over for traffic violations in roundabouts. These flyers provide officers with a quick and effective way to communicate roundabout laws to people.

The jurisdiction decided a multi-lane roundabout was the best solution for enhancing safety while efficiently accommodating projected traffic volumes and maintaining a pedestrian-friendly intersection.

However, during the planning stage, Washington County staff attended several public meetings where concerned citizens repeatedly asked the same kinds of questions, such as "How do you drive through a roundabout?" and "Will a roundabout be safe?"

Approach

Washington County staff recognized a need to raise broad awareness about the benefits of modern roundabouts. They developed an online "Roundabout University" – "Roundabout U" – encompassing a wide variety of public outreach techniques designed to increase knowledge about, and equip people to help raise awareness and support for, roundabouts. The program started with a website, and has grown to include a range of products over time. To tie all of the products together, staff developed a logo for use on all materials. The original Roundabout U website presented the benefits of roundabouts, how to successfully navigate a roundabout, what proposed roundabouts would look like, and project updates.

Roundabout U logo.
Figure 1: The Roundabout U Logo used
in Washington County, Minnesota for all
roundabout-related outreach materials.

The website has since expanded to include a range of general roundabout public outreach products that are easily adaptable for specific projects and needs across the County. The current website contains, in addition to the original material developed, a section on common misconceptions of roundabouts, and a list of roundabouts implemented across the County. Supplemental Roundabout U products include:

Results

Anecdotal responses from citizens, elected officials, and internal staff have affirmed the success of the program.

According to staff, the outreach has been so successful that other jurisdictions across Minnesota have asked to borrow outreach materials and bring in Washington County Public Works Department staff as experts-on-hand to help sway public perception of proposed roundabouts. The products are designed to be adaptable and customizable, making it easy for other agencies to apply what Washington County has developed to their own roundabouts.

Potential Outreach Idea: Use a walkable mock roundabout or toy car-sized roundabout at your next public outreach event to provide a hands-on way to learn about roundabouts.

Lessons Learned

Outreach Investment

Washington County Public Works believes that their Roundabout U program is a relatively low-cost investment, as compared with the construction of a comparable signalized intersection. All products were developed in-house initially, and updates to materials to customize them for specific audiences/roundabout projects take no more than a few hours. Ads in the newspapers reached a broader audience, but were quite expensive to produce relative to their benefit.

Related Products

General Information Website Washington County's Roundabout U Website
http://www.co.washington.mn.us/info_for_residents/transportation_division/roundabout_u/

Video How About a Roundabout? The Minnesota Experience
http://www.mnltap.umn.edu/Publications/Videos/ModernRoundabouts/

Flyer Roundabout Characteristics
http://www.co.washington.mn.us/client_files/documents/TPD/Roundabouts/Roundabout_Characteristics_2009.pdf

Brochure Roundabout U: A Step-by-Step Guide to Driving a Multi-Lane Roundabout
http://www.co.washington.mn.us/client_files/documents/TPD/Roundabouts/Roundabout_U_Brochure_Sept2009.pdf

Learn More

Joe Gustafson
Transportation Engineer
Washington County Public Works
651.430.4351
joe.gustafson@co.washington.mn.us

Jeffrey Shaw
Intersections Program Manager
FHWA Office of Safety
708.283.3524
jeffrey.shaw@dot.gov

Page last modified on December 1, 2015.
Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives
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