Roundabout Research Incorporated into Campus Transportation Network, National Projects

Posted: December 19, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Kristin Loiacono, Home Row Editorial

Aimee Flannery
Aimee Flannery

If you’re a civil engineer specializing in the nuances of potential transportation tangles, there is no other way to sum up the arrival of Mason’s first campus roundabout.

“It’s quite thrilling for me!” exclaims Aimee Flannery, associate professor of civil, environmental and infrastructure engineering.

Flannery has been studying roundabouts for the past 13 years, as they began to emerge as an accepted form of intersection control in the United States. Roundabouts are designed with a specific physical geometry to slow traffic as it approaches the center island.

“The tightening radii force the driver to slow down,” explains Flannery.

Flannery’s research began in 1994, when she was a Dwight D. Eisenhower fellow working for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The FHWA investigated crash and operational performance of international and domestic roundabouts through Flannery’s research. She then continued her study of roundabouts at Penn State University, where she earned her PhD in 1998.

In 2007, she and her graduate students in CEIE 565 (Design of Transport Systems) studied the use of roundabouts on a proposed redesign of the Patriot Circle roadway on the Fairfax Campus.

Hailing from five different continents, the students in the class recognized the international acceptance of roundabouts and the solutions they could provide. The students’ design focused on improving conditions for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. The design was presented to Mason’s Facilities Management unit and recently incorporated into new road construction near the Physical Education Building.

Roundabout on Fairfax Campus
The new roundabout on the Fairfax Campus forces drivers to slow down.
Mason Gazette photo

Previously, another group of Volgenau graduate students conducted a study on roundabouts for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. In 2004, students spent the summer collecting data around the nation.

The data was published last year in the Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, and will be incorporated into the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual, an internationally recognized methodology and software for analyzing operational performance of roadways.

Flannery, who taught Introduction to Transportation (CEIE 360) and Traffic Engineering (CEIE 461) this fall, is also involved in a project for the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS).

CALTRANS is considering building multilane roundabouts, but it is unknown how bicyclists will fare.

“We’re doing a lot of surveys, field studies and focus groups to find out what conditions are best for bicyclists,” says Flannery.

She is examining and comparing existing roundabouts in the United States for clues, and she sees a bright future for roundabouts in this country.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format in The Volgenau School News, No. 4.

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