Roundabout the Village

Andrew Wickerham

Colgate students often dodge multiple streams of traffic whilst navigating the five-way intersection in front of the Colgate Bookstore, but a walk through downtown Hamilton may soon get easier. A redesign of the snarl of traffic lights and crosswalks will be discussed in the coming weeks when representatives from the New York State Department of Transportation [DOT] visit the village.

“We asked DOT to come and look at the intersection because it is confusing for drivers and pedestrians,” Hamilton Mayor Sue McVaugh said of the area where Route 12B meets Madison, Payne and Lebanon Streets. “Every day there are more cars, more trucks, more traffic – these roads weren’t built for them.”

McVaugh was quick to note that the idea is not in response to any particular surge in accidents or new problems at the intersection; rather, she simply hopes to eliminate the confusion in the intersection.

“People are so confused that they often move slowly anyway,” she said.

Since the road is state-controlled there is nothing the Village of Hamilton can do about traffic patterns. The possibility of an overhaul was first aired last year when village officials and the DOT met to finalize plans for the widening of Route 12B just north of the village, a project that will occur in summer 2008. McVaugh asked the DOT to return when Colgate was in session so the state could get a better idea of the issue.

“I’m not a traffic expert, but I am a Hamilton expert,” she said. “It may be something as simple as a dotted lane line or it may be something as dramatic as a rotary, so when the DOT comes were going to talk about it and see if they have any suggestions.”

A rotary is a type of small traffic circle that provides a continuous flow of traffic around a central island or painted circle.

“If you were coming south on 12B you would flow around [the circle] as if you were coming in at six o’clock and going out at nine,” McVaugh said.

Unlike larger traffic circles seen in many cities, rotaries – also known as roundabouts – use yield signs in place of traffic lights, an arrangement that has been shown to be pedestrian-friendly.

“I immediately asked how pedestrians would get across,” McVaugh said. “We’re not going to make it so that pedestrians can’t get across.”

The arrangement is common in many parts of the country, especially in smaller towns. The Mayor hopes that DOT representatives will be able to use their experience in other towns and come up with a plan appropriate for Hamilton.

Other ideas for the intersection have been considered over the years but were never carried out.

“From time to time, we talk about making Lebanon Street one-way,” McVaugh said, “or making Broad St. one direction on each side of the park, essentially creating one big traffic circle.” She noted that preserving access to the local merchants would be of chief concern in any plan to redesign the area’s roads.

While redesigning the intersection may be a welcome relief to those sick of pondering which street is safe to cross, it won’t happen overnight. “If anything happens, I’m sure it will happen after a lot of talk,” McVaugh said.