Drivers eastbound on state Highway 14 in Washougal will see a new electronic sign telling them not to stop in the roundabout at 32nd Street.
The sign, which provides a simple “Do not block circle” message, automatically turns on when a train is blocking 32nd Street north of the roundabout and vehicles are stacking up on 32nd Street.
When the sign is on, drivers eastbound on Highway 14 wanting to turn north onto 32nd Street should wait in the left lane before the roundabout. The lane was designed to hold traffic so it will not block other vehicles from using the roundabout.
Once the train has passed through the crossing and any traffic backup on 32nd Street has cleared, drivers can proceed through the roundabout.
All other drivers should continue through the roundabout without stopping.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has developed an online video animation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WnjwHeiIeI, showing drivers what to do.
The electronic sign is the only one the agency has installed at the roundabout. East-to-north drivers represent the heaviest traffic movement affected by trains crossing 32nd Street.
A contractor working for WSDOT built two roundabouts on Highway 14 this year, at 32nd Street and at Washougal River Road/15th Street.
The temporary speed limit reduction, which was in place during construction, has been lifted, and the speed limit has returned to 55 mph through the area. However, 25 mph is the recommended speed as drivers approach and travel through the roundabouts.
Additional low-cost enhancements include two newly installed electronic speed signs at both roundabouts on Highway 14 to help slow cars down by informing drivers when they are traveling faster than the recommended limit.
WSDOT faced significant opposition when it first started talking about building roundabouts on Highway 14 more than three years ago. Community concerns have waned somewhat as more residents become familiar with this type of traffic control.
Traffic engineers like roundabouts primarily because they improve safety and mobility.
Roundabouts virtually eliminate head-on and side-impact crashes, which are the most likely to result in fatalities or severe injuries. Statistics indicate that roundabouts can reduce fatal crashes by 90 percent and injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where there were previously traffic signals or stop signs.
Roundabouts also can ease congestion since they allow for continuous traffic flow. If there is no traffic in a roundabout, a driver can proceed without stopping.