Patriot Circle Detour Closes Temporarily

Posted: June 26, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Patriot Circle won’t exactly be a “complete circle” for much of the summer. Construction of the roundabout at the intersection of Mason Pond Drive and Patriot Circle (across from the PE Building) will result in significant changes to campus traffic patterns.

Underground power lines in the construction area were damaged recently during ground excavation. In order to repair the power lines and keep pace with the construction plan, contractors were forced to close the area — which includes the detour onto Mason Pond Drive — to through traffic until Monday, June 30.

But this closure won’t be the last. Originally, the area was to be shut down for a two-week period in August in order to reconnect the roads. However, the delays incurred from the damaged power lines have forced contractors to extend the road closure timeline so that Patriot Circle would be open before the start of the fall semester.

This second closure of the roundabout construction area will begin Monday, July 7, and last approximately four to five weeks.

Though the construction will cause a few traffic hiccups this summer, Mason officials and traffic consultants are confident the addition will greatly increase traffic efficiency in the long run — especially once the road connecting the roundabout to Route 123 is complete.

Last fall, multiple traffic studies conducted at Mason concluded that the roundabouts would calm and improve traffic flow, especially during peak travel times. When compared to a four-way stop, the roundabout would improve the traffic flow by 69 percent.

“In the next several years, pedestrian numbers are expected to increase dramatically, and right now, our roadway infrastructure doesn’t really address that,” says Aimee Flannery, associate professor of civil engineering, who directed the study.

“Roundabouts are more pedestrian friendly than intersections with stop signs because they isolate the pedestrian flow into certain areas,” she says. “The drivers are better able to see the pedestrians in a roundabout, and vice versa. It’s a win-win – the pedestrians are safer, and the autos don’t have to stop as often.”

This week’s closure of the Patriot Circle detour gives drivers an idea of what’s to come this summer, and a chance to plan their commutes accordingly.

Traffic coming from University Drive will only be allowed as far as Lot I on the west side of Patriot Circle. All traffic heading to Lots J and K, the Patriot Center and other destinations on the south end of campus must use the entrances off of Braddock Road or take University Drive to the spur road leading to the east side of Patriot Circle.

“The biggest initial impact will be to those people who are accustomed to entering campus off of University Drive,” says Josh Cantor, director of parking and transportation. “We realize this may inconvenience many drivers, but it’s something that most people only need to experience once. After that, they’ll know which way to go.”

With heavy traffic expected during the coming event-filled weekend, the construction plan will get its first true test. Among the events, Strayer University is scheduled to have two commencements on Saturday, and the Mason Festival of the Arts is ongoing.

“I’m sure it will be slightly confusing for those who come through campus for the first time,” Cantor says. “But from a parking perspective, there’s no impact. Everyone will be able to find a parking spot. It’s just a matter of people getting used to it.”

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