Colorado was an early adopter of roundabouts. Now, motorists across the U.S. are driving in circles. |

Colorado was an early adopter of roundabouts. Now, motorists across the U.S. are driving in circles.

Superior's multi-lane roundabout at McCaslin Boulevard and Main Street is pictured south of the unique diverging diamond interchange with U.S. Route 36 and Marshall Road in Superior on Jan. 8, 2021.
Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun

In the late 1990s, the city of Golden considered what then was a foreign concept: The idea of placing roundabouts, the circular traffic control configuration popular in Europe and Australia, along one of its arterials through a commercial center.

Although it had been in use in the U.S. for more than a century, Americans still hadn’t warmed up to the idea. A planned King Soopers store whose entrance would be on one of the proposed roundabouts along South Golden Road pushed back with concerns about how the unusual intersection might discourage customers.

Five years earlier, local businesses had shut down talk of using roundabouts to revamp the road, a broad swath that invited speeding, featured intermittent traffic lights and enough lanes to make pedestrian crossing an adventure. But this time, the city cut an unusual deal: If the grocery store didn’t hit its sales targets, the roundabout would be removed.

It’s still there today — part of the early wave that, decades later, continues to gain traction in Colorado and around the country as both state transportation officials and especially municipalities embrace this once-unfamiliar solution that, in many situations, calms traffic and leads to fewer injury accidents.

Four years after Golden’s roundabouts opened, Alex Ariniello, then a traffic consultant on the project, published a study — “Are Roundabouts Good for Business?” — that’s still widely circulated as evidence that they not only enhance flow while reducing speed and result in improved safety, but also can contribute to commercial success.

Read more from Kevin Simpson, The Colorado Sun.

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