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A New Pattern

The rotary - some call it a roundabout - is making a comeback in Rhode Island (look no further than the Apponaug Circulator Project). Over the summer the Community College of Rhode Island spent nearly $2 million to install its own rotary at the Warwick campus. The school says it’s part of a larger 5-year plan to give the aging campus a facelift and help streamline traffic flow. But Jim Hummel found a decidedly mixed reaction from students, faculty and staff who descended on the campus for the beginning of classes last week.


Anyone who has visited CCRI’s Warwick campus in the morning knows the drill: a line of cars backed up on the long road in from East Avenue - and controlled chaos as hundreds of people arrive in a short period of time.
But students, faculty and staff arriving for the first day of classes this year not only got a big welcome on the sign leading into campus, but a new traffic pattern as well, that is making a comeback in some parts of Rhode Island: 
The roundabout, or rotary -  which the administration hopes will reduce some of the confusion and congestion that has plagued the campus in years past. The rotary is designed to both slow down and keep the traffic moving simultaneously.
Stone: ``We had a lot of cars going in a lot of different directions, and a lot of people trying to get into the building, without a tremendous amount of direction.’’
College Spokesman Patrick Stone said the rotary and associated improvements, cost $1.8 million and include landscaping, a modified speed bump and better signage for a crosswalk from the faculty parking lot. They are part of a 5-year plan to give the aging campus a facelift.
More on than  in a moment.
It’s the rotary - and particularly the speed bump - that has drawn the most reaction. And it has been a mixedreaction from the students, faculty and staff we spoke with over the first week of school.
Malcom DePina: ``I’ve been here before, the traffic pattern sucks. I blame the roundabout.’’
Hummel: ``What’s the deal with it.?’’
DePina: ``I don’t, we were stuck off the highway for a good 10 minutes, 15?’’
Hummel: ``Do you think it was smoother last year? You think the roundabout helps or hurts you?’’
DePina: ``I think the roundabout hurts because it’s slower to get in.’’
Jean-Luc Gonzalez: ``It’s mainly because the roundabout’s so slow because no one knows how to yield at times. That entire line that goes back onto that little intersection is always backed up and it’s a pain.’’
Hummel: ``And so the game plan was to make things smoother, do you think that’s working out?’’
Gonzalez: ``I feel like I see where they’re coming from, but I don’t think it worked out the way they wanted to.’’
Others, though, thought it was an improvement.
Ibraheim Shode: ``I think I kind of like it, like it’s more, it’s easier for passengers to move around. So I think it’s really good.’’
Hummel: ``So the roundabout you think is good.’’
Shode: ``It’s helping actually, there’s a lot of traffic anyways, but I think for passengers moving around, it’s okay for them.’’
Samara Keo: ``I can see why they did it, but yeah, the traffic here is bad.’’
Hummel: ``Do you think it’s helping the traffic at all?’’
Keo: ``A little bit maybe, because now everyone has to come around instead of everyone just going like in that kind of direction. I think it’s helping just to have people able to follow that  circle and just go instead of everyone coming this way, coming that way.’’
One the of the biggest changes is a closure of the road that goes under the main building. It is now totally blocked off to motor vehicles, with handicapped parking accessible in the back, forcing drivers to go around the building to get there. 
Stone: ``I think speed and again public safety is the heart of this entire project, really slowing everything down a little bit. We had a lot of fast cars and people running into the college, and kids trying to scramble to get to their classes and everybody was go go go.’’
Several faculty members approached us off camera complaining privately about the new traffic pattern. Students, though, had no problem talking publicly about a speed bump they say is both higher and longer than it was last year.
Hummel: ``I’ve heard a lot of people complain that the speed bump is kind of high.’’
Gonzalez: ``It is, we were coming in and I could hear it scratch against the front of his car, so that was a problem.’’
Hummel: ``What do you think about the speed bump?’’
Larson Way: ``Oh, that thing’s huge. It’s so long, it’s like my front tires are off of it and my back tires are just going over it.’’
Hummel: ``What about the speed bump?’’
Shode: ``That’s a little bit high.’’
Hummel: ``Does it seem high to you?’’
Shode: ``It’s high.’’
Hummel: ``What about that speed bump?’’
Stone: ``I think the reasoning for that speed bump, primarily, is that’s a really high traffic for pedestrians. That’s where our faculty and staff walk in - a lot of the people coming off the bus will walk over that way to go up that 2nd-floor ramp. We really wanted to make sure that was as slow as possible. 
Erin Marr: ``It’s high but I guess it’s good for the pedestrians, people don’t really stop for them. JH Do you worry about your car? EM Not really, if you go slow. I mean I didn’t bottom out.  Or anything like that, so…
Others told us the lines were so long because the rotary slowed the traffic down, then motorists faced another slow-down with the speed bump, defeating the purpose of the rotary:  to keep things moving slowly, but steadily.
Stone: ``It’s new so we have some people are still getting used to it. We’ve heard a lot of people that are happy with it, because it is safer to walk into the campus. We’ve heard from some faculty and staff members in particular as they walk across that faculty/staff lot to come in, that they don’t have to worry about a) which way they need to walk anymore and b) that there’s cars that will see them as they’re coming in and they’re going a lot slower than they used to go.’’
In addition to the rotary, the college renovated the Great Hall inside and has plans to replace the long, main pedestrian ramp leading up from the parking lot, an original structure that is clearly showing its age.
Just as there has been a steep learning curve with the state’s Apponaug Circulator project not too far from CCRI, the college says it may take a little while for those arriving here to get used to the new pattern. 
On the Friday before classes began CCRI sent out a mass email, outlining the new traffic pattern and preaching patience during the transition period.
And in the first several weeks CCRI will have campus police officers nearby to help with the flow - and to keep people from pulling to the side of the rotary and dropping passengers off in front of the main building.
Student Nick Wainwright agrees there will be a learning curve.
Wainwright: ``It’s kind of confusing, I ran into a couple of problems this morning. 
Hummel: ``What were the problems?’’
Wainwright: ``People don’t know how to yield. Classic Rhode Island.’’
Stone: ``I think there’s people who are going into this and they’ve never seen a rotary, there’s not that many in Rhode Island. It’s becoming a more popular aspect I think of traffic engineering to bring it back, especially in these areas where it wasn’t necessarily the safest it could have been before when you have a lot of fast traffic. So I’m sure it is new to people and like I said that first day even to now people are getting used to it.’’
At CCRI in Warwick, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.

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