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Weekend Detours on Route 29 in Prince William

Sumerduck, Va.: I saw one of those flashing signs that said the intersection of Rt 15 and 29 in Gainesville would be closed starting 8/9. What does that mean exactly -- that we can't get onto 15 there? Where can I find out information on this? Also saw signs saying roundabouts are coming. Ugh! Thanks.

Here's the answer to that question I couldn't get to during Monday's online discussion. Southbound Route 29 in western Prince William County will be closed on three weekends in August and September so the Virginia Department of Transportation can install a new deck on the bridge over Broad Run in Buckland. The bridge is about a half-mile southwest of Route 15 near the Fauquier County line.

The detour around the work could add as much as a half hour to travel times for southbound motorists. But northbound traffic on Route 29 is not affected by this. VDOT says it's retiming the traffic lights in this area to maintain the best traffic flow, and the state police will be out along the route to assist.

This is the detour for cars: Southbound traffic will be diverted to northbound Route 15, then to westbound Route 55, then to Beverly Mill Road (Route 600) and back to Route 29.

This is the detour for tractor trailers: From southbound Route 29 to northbound Route 15 to westbound I-66 to southbound Route 17 and back to Route 29. (Tractor-trailers can't drive on Beverly Mill Road, which is two lanes.)

-- 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, through 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 11.
-- Friday night, Aug. 22, through 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 25.
-- Friday night, Sept. 5, through 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 8.

The bridge project, which began in December, is scheduled to be completed this fall. You can find more details about it here on the VDOT Web site. Also, the Federal Highway Administration reviews the history of the project and its modular construction technique here. The modular technique is speeding up the timing on the work. One prefab deck section is to be installed on each night of the three weekends.

By Robert Thomson  |  August 5, 2008; 6:26 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Construction , Weekend Work  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Gas Prices Changing Driver Behavior?
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"Also saw signs saying roundabouts are coming. Ugh!"

I doubt the person who submitted that question will see this, but why "ugh"?

Posted by: Rich | August 5, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Because Virginia drivers generally cannot merge to start with. Roundabouts just create even more of a traffic cluster-f. They do work in Europe, where driver training consists of more than "you can breathe, and shift the car into drive, congratulations here is your license!"

Posted by: Roundabouts | August 5, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Roundabouts do not require merging. You may be thinking of a traffic circle, which is a different concept.

Posted by: Rich | August 5, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Definitions of roundabout on the Web:

traffic circle

Posted by: Anonymous | August 5, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Sure, because it's online, it MUST be accurate?

A roundabout is definitely circular in most cases (though not always), but there's a difference between a "roundabout" and a "traffic circle" or "rotary." Traffic circles tend to be larger, be designed for higher-speed traffic, require merging, often have traffic lights or stop signs (consider Dupont Circle or Washington Circle in DC), sometimes require traffic already on the circle to yield to entering traffic (example: Memorial Circle in DC), and generally don't function well with large volumes of traffic. Roundabouts are smaller, are designed to slow the traffic without requiring everyone to stop, usually require you to stop ONLY when you need to yield, universally require entering traffic to yield to traffic already on the roundabout, and have flared entry points to make it easier to see the incoming traffic (no merging at a roundabout).

Certainly there are plenty of people who don't understand the difference and who have a knee-jerk reaction based on some of DC's ridiculously-designed circles. But there is a definite difference that you can find fairly easily by running a Google search for "traffic circle versus roundabout."

Posted by: Rich | August 6, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Somehow, I have precisely ZERO confidence in VDOT being able to design one of these.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 6, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

My lack of confidence is not in whether they can design the roundabout, but whether they can put up adequate signage. Signage listing where each exit goes is the key so that the driver approaching the roundabout who doesn't know the area can determine which exit to take.

VDOT's publicity materials on roundabouts are already inadequate because they do not teach proper turn-signal technique. If you're turning left (going more than halfway around), you should signal left as you approach the roundabout and as you continue around it, then signal right after you pass the exit before the one you want. The reason is that this way nobody entering the roundabout will have to guess at what you're doing--the left signal means you're staying on the roundabout and they must yield, the right signal means you're exiting and they need not yield. But VDOT instructs people going left not to signal at all, and then signal right after passing the exit before the one you want. That's bad because it forces people to guess--are you staying on the roundabout, or are you just an ignoramus who doesn't use his blinker? Roundabouts work best when nobody has to guess (because if you don't know whether a car is staying on the roundabout, you either have to slow to a crawl or stop).

People who don't use their blinkers properly are the main problem with implementing roundabouts in the United States. I suppose we can hope that as people drive through them and see the advantage of using blinkers, they might reform, but that's probably just wishful thinking.

Posted by: Rich | August 7, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Turn signals? I hope success does not depend on that one!

I really really want the roundabouts to succeed because they take the place of big intersections with their annoyingly long light cycles. The challenge is that we have a lot of experience with intersections and the rules are simple and linear (green means go, etc.). Many of us cannot adequately articulate the rules for a roundabout. Who has to yield and when? Do I use a turn signal and how? Which lane should I use? Can I cross the solid white line? Is this thing a roundabout or a traffic circle?

Roundabouts can work great if everyone knows and follows the rules but that's a big IF. I wish DC, MD and VA had consistency in the design of "circular traffic configurations" and everyone had lots of experience with them. I expect many people will be confused about what to do. I won't get into the issue of "me-first" drivers and the opportunities for havoc in the roundabouts.

I hope in 10 years that they are a normal fixture in our local driving. We adjusted to "right turn on red", we can manage roundabouts. Oops, did I just date myself?

Posted by: Josey23 | August 7, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, somehow I think they're going to miss the blinker memo - that might require putting down the cell phone and actually paying attention to the road, after all.

The point about VDOT's horrendous approach to signage is also an excellent one.

I have to agree with the second poster - works great in Europe, will be a disaster here.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 7, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

blinkers? cars here don't have blinkers

Posted by: Anonymous | August 7, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"Who has to yield and when?"

That's the simplest part: A vehicle entering the roundabout must yield to a vehicle already on the roundabout. (That's why it's important to signal right when you approach your exit, so that the guy entering will know he need not yield to you.)

What frustrates me more than the traffic lights are all the annoying four-way stops in the DC area. Roundabouts or mini-roundabouts make more sense to me because they allow you to keep moving when there's no reason to stop, yet they still keep traffic moving at slower speeds in residential areas and the like. Don't you hate having to stop at a four-way stop when you can see that the other streets are clear? It wastes gas, too.

If you want a laugh, run a Google search for "Magic Roundabout Swindon" and then try to picture that roundabout plunked down in place of Washington Circle or Dupont Circle (recognizing the Magic Roundabout is in a country where you drive on the left). I've driven through the Magic Roundabout three times. I had loads of fun with it, but I shudder to think of what would happen here!

Posted by: Rich | August 7, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Rich, I won't argue with you about the annoyance of 4-way stops. I'll note that in my experience, most 4-way stops are there to slow down traffic or convince the driver to avoid the road completely. The locals aren't really interested in speeding traffic through their neighborhoods.

Good luck with the turn signal and yielding thing. I've seen the Swindon Roundabout video before and I must say that I can't think of a better example the difference between U.K. and U.S. driving habits. LOL.

Posted by: josey23 | August 7, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

"That's why it's important to signal right when you approach your exit, so that the guy entering will know he need not yield to you"


Have you ever driven around here or are you just hiding out in your mama's basement dreaming about the Queen's roads? People either won't signal or they'll signal wrong. Then you'll be dead with a nice blinking car sharing the driver's seat.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 8, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why I respond to the trolls, but I will.... I said "it's important to signal" because it is. I didn't say that everyone WILL signal. I know there will be plenty of people who are either lazy, stupid, or both. I daresay you strike me as one of them. But the fact that some people are stupid doesn't mean that nobody should use their blinkers, now does it?

Posted by: Rich | August 11, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

anti spyware for macs

Posted by: BoomToife | August 13, 2008 4:31 AM | Report abuse

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