When The Home Depot opens at the end of the month, it will usher in a new way of driving to Rim country motorists.
Traffic will enter and exit the home improvement retailer via a roundabout at Highway 87 and Tyler Parkway.
While roundabouts have been used in Europe and other parts of the world for decades, they are a relatively new concept in the United States. Roundabouts have been shown to reduce fatal and injury accidents as much as 76 percent where they have been used in the U.S.
And there are other advantages to roundabouts. They also reduce traffic delays, fuel consumption, air pollution, and construction costs, while increasing capacity and enhancing intersection beauty.
LaRon Garrett, town public works engineer, explained the difference between a conventional intersection with a stoplight and a roundabout.
"A traffic signal stops traffic completely," Garrett said. "With the roundabout, you do away with the stop concept and go to a yield concept.
"When you approach the roundabout, if there's no traffic you just pull right through and keep going and the traffic keeps flowing. If there's somebody in there you yield until they go past and then you can go in.
"It keeps traffic flowing better, and that's why they prefer these to signals."
"They" would be the Arizona Department of Transportation, whose decision it was to go with a roundabout.
"Over in the Verde Valley, they've got like six or seven of them in various stages, but this will be the first one in this area," Garrett said.
During a visit to Australia a few years ago, Garrett first encountered and gradually came to like roundabouts. He said people are often afraid of something they don't understand.
"It's going to be a learning process for people in Payson, but I believe once people get used to it they're really going to like it," he said. "We may see more of these coming because of how much better traffic flows through them."
Probably just the west side of the roundabout will be completed by the time Home Depot opens, with the east side slated for completion about a month later.
An interesting sidelight is the plan to use the center area of the roundabout to create a gateway to Payson from the north. On Thursday, the Payson Town Council approved a design concept that "will provide a very attractive statement as a person enters Payson from the north," according to Garrett.
"There is an area in the center 106 feet across and that's where they want to put this landscaping," he said.
The design includes 3-foot high metal letters spelling "Payson" and a large elk sculpture.
"Originally we anticipated transplanting some large ponderosa pine trees in the center of the roundabout," Garrett told the council. "Recently a group of citizens provided the town with a much more elaborate and attractive landscaping scheme."
The group plans to raise the money to build the gateway, but the town has agreed to be responsible for watering and maintenance.
How to drive a roundabout
- As you approach a roundabout there will be a YIELD sign and dashed yield limit line. Slow down, watch for pedestrians and bicyclists, and be prepared to stop if necessary.
- When you enter, yield to circulating traffic on the left, but do not stop if the way is clear.
- ONE-WAY signs help guide traffic and indicate that you must drive to the right of the center island.
- Upon passing the street prior to your exit, turn on your right turn signal and watch for pedestrians and bicyclists as you exit.
- Left turns are completed by traveling around the central island.