My office has received calls concerning the new roundabout at South Station Plaza and Barstow Road, in the Plaza. Since this modern roundabout has changed this intersection, we feel it is important to educate the public on its operation. Much of what is presented here is available on www.greatneckplaza.net, the village's website, in the middle section of the Home Page. You will find a picture of a roundabout and a downloadable file containing a brochure from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), entitled, "Roundabouts, General Information and Step-By-Step Instruction." The newly constructed roundabout is part of a three-pronged traffic calming grant the village obtained from NYSDOT, which was undertaken to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety at the prior traffic circle.
A roundabout is not a traffic circle. The roundabout, with a larger circle and smaller median islands at the approaches, slows traffic upon entry and while circulating. This is in contrast to the design of a traffic circle, which allows for higher speed entry and circulation. In a roundabout, circulatory traffic has the right of way, and vehicles entering must yield to traffic already circulating, whereas in a traffic circle, motorists entering the circle have the right of way, and circulating vehicles must yield or stop, often causing gridlock.
According to Walter Handelman, our village engineer, the new roundabout is all about pedestrian safety and slowing down traffic. From our observations it achieves these goals. Prior to reconstruction, pedestrians had to cross over 100 feet of pavement to get from one side of South Station Plaza to the other. Now it's only 12 feet of pavement to a pedestrian refuge island, where they can wait, to cross another 12 foot travel lane. Drivers now are forced through the larger design of the circle to slow down and stay to the right around it, yielding to traffic properly. Further, the pavement area is significantly reduced; not only providing shorter crossing distances but a more aesthetically pleasing intersection design and a central island for landscaping to enhance the village.
With the prior traffic circle, the height of the landscaping was an obstacle at times in viewing pedestrians in the crosswalks. Now, in a modern roundabout, the central island design calls for mounding and vegetation to fill the island to any height desired, since motorists only need to see circulating vehicles in the roadway and then proceed around the center island counter clockwise and take the necessary right hand exit.
The roundabout, with a mountable truck apron, has been designed to accommodate larger vehicles, including buses and fire trucks. So, if you see larger sized vehicles upon this apron, don't be alarmed, it's intended to work in this fashion.
There is no doubt that getting used to this new roundabout will require a period of adjustment. The biggest adjustment however, will be for commuters that get dropped off and picked up at the railroad station. No longer are there wide curb areas to double park and wait for passengers coming up the stairwell leading to this roundabout. We've also installed fencing to keep pedestrians out of the circular roadway. When motorists do not heed to the new design and continue to idle in their vehicles waiting for passengers, they do so at the risk of getting issued a $75 ticket for parking in a traffic lane. We have instructed our VGNP code enforcement officers to be vigilant in enforcing restrictions in this area because of the safety concerns presented when people fail to obey our vehicle and traffic laws. We suggest that people who need to drop off or pick up someone using the railroad station do so inside the train station area on North Station Plaza, or queue in the commuter parking lots around the station designed to accommodate commuter activity. The roundabout or its approaching intersections are not the appropriate locations to attempt "kiss and ride." It frustrates other law-abiding drivers, can jeopardize pedestrian safety, and results in traffic congestion when the traffic lane gets blocked while waiting to discharge or pick up passengers. Please be considerate of your fellow citizens and use only properly designated areas. It might take a few more moments to plan for, but more importantly, it's the right and safe thing to do.
I welcome residents in the community to check out our roundabout and give me feedback at email@example.com. I hope you will agree that it is a significant pedestrian and traffic safety improvement.
- Mayor Jean A. Celender, Village of Great Neck Plaza