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Department details proper way to utilize new structure and highlights local traffic changes

PHOTO COURTESY OF ODOT - Obeying speed limits and correct use of turn signals are keys to safely managing a roundabout.

Prineville's new roundabout is now open to traffic in all directions.

As people adjust to the new traffic structure and other changes in traffic flow, ODOT wants to ensure the roundabout is used in a proper and safe manner.

The department's regional spokesman Peter Murphy is offering a few suggestions that are intended to help people who are unfamiliar with roundabouts navigate the local one in a safe manner that keeps traffic moving.

Murphy urges drivers to exercise a little patience as they deal with the roundabout and the drivers using it, saying that it will go a long way toward making use of it easier.

"I know folks will be getting used to it for a little while," he said. "It changes traffic patterns, and any time there is a change in a traffic pattern, we just ask people to be a bit more heads up as they go through."

He noted that drivers now encounter an interruption in their historic driving routine where they will face access issues as people go into and exit the roundabout.

"The first thing is to obey the speed limits that are there," Murphy said, "because that is going to give you a chance to read the traffic pattern you're entering into and working with."

He went on to point out that there are "some rules of the road that work in a roundabout" that drivers will need to self-enforce. Among these is the proper use of the turn signal as they pass through the traffic structure.

"As you are exiting the roundabout, that is when you give your turn indicator," Murphy explained, adding that it helps the drivers waiting to enter the roundabout know what you will do next.

"Entering into the roundabout, it is (about) deferring to the traffic, yielding the right-of-way to traffic that is in the roundabout," he said. "The traffic in the roundabout has the right-of-way."

Murphy explained that a roundabout is designed to slow traffic at the intersection and prevent high-speed collisions, but at the same time keep traffic moving and limit the amount of times drivers need to come to a full stop. Consequently, as people are slowing down and approaching the roundabout, they will need to anticipate whether or not they can safely enter the traffic structure without stopping first. If no vehicles are in the roundabout, a motorist can enter it without stopping. If there are vehicles in the roundabout, but they have signaled that they are about to exit, it is likewise safe to cautiously enter without coming to a stop.

The only time stopping becomes necessary is when a vehicle is expected to continue in the roundabout across the portion the driver is waiting to enter.

"The brain goes, let's be as safe as we can and come to a stop," Murphy says of conventional driving behaviors. "Well, the objective here is not to come to a stop, it is to keep moving safely and slowly. … There is this dance that gets played off approaching and yielding. There is a pattern that develops that people will learn over time."

While drivers adjust to regular use of the new roundabout, ODOT's Community Liaison Abbey Driscoll wants to make drivers aware of some other traffic changes associated with opening of the new structure.

Motorists can only make right-hand turns from Airport Way onto Highway 126. People needing to travel east should go to the roundabout and enter the highway from that location.

Likewise, drivers on Millican Road are restricted to right turns only when entering Highway 126. People wanting to go west will need to go to the roundabout and use it to enter westbound traffic.

While all four entry points of the roundabout are now open, work on the traffic structure is not completely finished. Some finishing touches remain, Driscoll said. Striping was recently added and more signs will be installed in the days ahead. Crews will soon add lighting, and seeding and mulching is planned to take place during the next several weeks.

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