3 Traffic Circle, Long Beach, California


Traffic Circle, Long Beach, California

The Los Alamitos Traffic Circle, informally known as the Long Beach Traffic Circle (or just the "Traffic Circle", since there are no other high volume traffic circles in Southern California), is a roundabout at the intersection of Lakewood Boulevard (State Route 19), Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1/former US Highway 101 Alternate) and Los Coyotes Diagonal in Long Beach, California.

History

In 1930, German engineer Werner Ruchti was contracted to design the traffic circle, which was to be based on European models. Construction was expedited in order to accommodate the increased vehicle traffic that was expected with the 1932 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, as many of the aquatic and rowing events were to be held in Long Beach. The Los Alamitos Traffic Circle was one of the first of its kind to be constructed in the United States, and, prior to their truncation, was also the end point of U.S. Route 6, which begins in Provincetown, Massachusetts, some 3,227 miles to the east, and of U.S. Route 91. [cite web |url=http://www.cahighways.org/089-096.html#091 |title=California Highways,Routes 89 through 96 |accessdate=2008-06-14 |author= |date= |work=www.cahighways.org |publisher=] In 1993, the circle was converted from an old style traffic circle to a modern roundabout by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). This was the first such conversion in the United States and included modifications to each of its entries and exits, including Yield signs (replacing Stop signs) to increase the speed and ease of traffic entering and exiting the circle and to reduce the waiting time to enter. Also added were wider lanes, redundant traffic signs, and devoted lanes for traffic traveling only 90 of the 360 degrees of the circle. After the conversion, both the total auto accident rate and the injury rate significantly dropped, making the circle one of the safest statistically in the nation.

The Los Alamitos Traffic Circle has a near twin in the 1932 Garces Memorial Circle located in Bakersfield.

Present day

Today the circle handles over 60,000 vehicles a day, mostly commuters from Orange County in the south heading to jobs in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County. The roadway is now owned by the State of California but managed by the City of Long Beach in cooperation with Caltrans. The city provides landscaping and traffic code enforcement, while the state provides road maintenance. Over the years, the Los Alamitos Traffic circle has become a landmark of East Long Beach, with its own lore and urban legends, including the unfounded rumor that Werner Ruchti himself died in an auto accident on the circle. It endures as an international precedent for directing traffic through urban multiple-entry dynamic intersections.

Notes

References

*"Drivers experience fewer crashes at L.B. Traffic Circle," Ruth Estrada, Online Forty-Niner (California State University, Long Beach newspaper).
*"Converting Old Traffic Circles to Modern Roundabouts: Michigan State University Case Study,"Timothy J. Gates, E.I.T. and Robert E. Maki, D.P.A., P.E., Michigan State University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
*"The Grand Army of the Republic (Memorial) Highway," Article 1, 3/03, US Route 6 Tourist Association, http://www.route6tour.com/history.htm .


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