As of May 9, local drivers have been going around in circles to ensure safer roadways, while others have found it difficult to go with the flow of traffic.
After about a year of planning, the painted roundabout at the corner of Argyle Avenue and Spring Street opened two days before schedule, but locals have noticed that not everyone is aware of the new rules of the road.
“It would be useful if people knew how to use a roundabout correctly,” said Veronica Carter of Friday Harbor.
Carter, who works at the Little Store next to the roundabout, said she’s noticed a few people a day drive through the gas station’s parking lot to avoid the traffic circle altogether.
She’s had first-hand trouble too. During one trip, Carter said a driver leaving Argyle stopped half-way into the roundabout, forcing Carter to drive over the circle’s center to avoid the vehicle. During another instance, she saw a driver enter the roundabout too early, and cut off another vehicle.
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, drivers should not stop in the roundabout. Motorists, outside the roundabout, should yield to traffic already inside. When a gap in traffic opens, drivers should enter the circle and use turn signals before exiting.
The roundabout was created, according to Town of Friday Harbor Administrator Duncan Wilson, to “make a dangerous intersection a lot safer.”
According to Washington State Patrol reports, only one vehicle collision has occurred at the intersection of Spring and Argyle in the last five years. However, Wilson said, the intersection created backup traffic when ferries offloaded and blocked views of pedestrians when turning left on Argyle from Spring.
“There were a lot of close calls there,” said Wilson. “Traffic will move a lot smoother.”
Town of Friday Harbor staff said they chose to install the smaller, painted roundabout, rather than a standard-sized, permanently raised island, due to the lower cost and space limitations. The completed roundabout includes a painted traffic circle, directional signage, crosswalks and yield signs. Town officials have planned for the roundabout since 2017, and construction was to run from May 7-11, but crews finished two days early.
For local Rebecca E. Moore, the roundabout’s constant flow of traffic is a positive change.
“Once we, residents, get used to it,” she said, “I think we’ll prefer it.”
Watch a video of the new roundabout in action below.