Curious Why Rotaries Still Exist In MassachusettsWBZ

It’s a Massachusetts roadway classic, the infamous rotary and most drivers hate them.

Isaac from Cambridge does.

He went to our curiosity page to ask:

“Why are traffic rotaries still in existence? With the number of accidents that occur as a result of them, one would think they’d be phased out.”

Well, as WBZ found out, even though the rotary is an idea that has come and gone, change is not easy or cheap.

Many years ago when traffic was a lot lighter, rotaries were all the rage. You could zip around without traffic lights, and the flow was good.

But now they’re the source of rage.

The day we were videotaping at the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge we saw one driver lean out his window and start yelling.

In fact, a lot of Boston drivers say using a rotary in 2010 makes as much sense as using an old rotary phone, where there’s a lot of going in circles, and a lot of waiting.

“No one knows how to use them,” says Laura Van Sickle, looking out at the mess at Fresh Pond.

That’s for sure. There are 118 rotaries in Massachusetts, and they’re not easy to handle.

Sometimes it seems like a game of survival of the fittest, and that just isn’t safe.

“We’ve sat here today and watched a lot of people almost kill each other,” says driving expert Dan Strollo. His company, In-Control Driver Training, teaches crash prevention.

“Rotaries have been around awhile and as they get overwhelmed, they’re not necessarily safe for people,” he says.

Strollo says the Fresh Pond rotary and others like it are perfect candidates to be reconfigured because of congestion and confusion.

“For something like this it makes a lot more sense to re-engineer the intersection,” he says.

The rotary re-do is becoming the trend. Perhaps the most famous example of what can be done is the replacement of the Sagamore rotary with the Sagamore flyover.

But it’s not cheap. The Sagamore work cost about $50 million. Re-doing smaller rotaries is also expensive. A tiny, traffic clogged roundabout in Framingham is being reconfigured: The cost $7.5 million.

With the big expense we can’t expect change to come quickly, so the best thing we can do is improve our driving.

What’s the rule? You’re supposed to yield to vehicles inside the rotary.

The yield signs are very clear about that, but cabbie Abdul Semantah says most people ignore them.

“Rotaries are the most dangerous things,” he says. But obeying the rules can not only keep you safer, it’s a lot cheaper than extreme makeover, rotary edition.

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