Roundabout could be the ticket for Still River
Long-suffering motorists could get some relief if the state were to approve a plan to install a roundabout at the four-way intersection on Still River Drive in New Milford.
Rush-hour traffic backs up regularly where Still River Drive meets Lanesville and Pickett District roads, mostly westbound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon.
It's no wonder.
According to a 2013 survey of town residents, Still River is the route of choice for 55 percent of drivers leaving town for points south.
The survey was part of a traffic study by Fitzgerald & Halliday Inc. of Hartford.
Officials believe replacing the four-way stop with a roundabout is the best way to ease the bottleneck.
Public Works Director Mike Zarba has submitted a proposal to the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials for review before it would go to the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
To meet the $590,000 cost of the project, Zarba hopes to tap the DOT's Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program.
"We're referring to this as a modern roundabout," Zarba said. "It won't be like the big, older traffic circles you see at major intersections in Rhode Island."
In a modern roundabout, drivers slow down as they approach and yield to vehicles already in the circle, where traffic never stops moving. In older-style traffic circles, drivers often have to stop first, and traffic within the circles often gets congested.
Mayor Pat Murphy likes the proposal for the modern version.
"This is a small roundabout model that has been shown to move traffic better than the present four-way stop," Murphy said. "It will keep traffic moving when it's heavy and allow you to drive through when you're the only one arriving there."
Michael Morehouse, project manager on the traffic study, has said a roundabout would not only keep traffic moving but would also have a "calming" effect on the speed of traffic in the area.
Planners recommended against installing a traffic signal at the intersection.
Although it would be cheaper than the roundabout -- costing about $240,000 -- it would do nothing to little to reduce rush-hour queueing or to affect the flow of traffic.
Dave Hannon, deputy director of the Housatonic Valley officials' group, said the town's application has already been passed along to DOT and a quick response is expected, given the agency's increasing fondness for roundabouts.
Hannon said a National Highway Institute study found new-style roundabouts help curb accidents by reducing the points of potential contact for vehicles.
Once DOT has approved the application, the town could begin design and construction, Hannon said.