Monday, August 18, 2014

A Roundabout By Any Other Name......

The City of Neenah has decided against giving their roundabouts "official names".  A citizen thought it would be easier to give directions to people if you could say "go 270-degrees through the "Screaming Eagle Roundabout'" or "go 90-degrees in the Rocket Roundabout to get to the High School."  City officials pointed out that even if they gave the roundabouts names, they still wouldn't be used in the GPS devices that everyone uses to get around nowadays.

But it got me to thinking about what names we could give to roundabouts here in Oshkosh.  Unlike Neenah, our city has decided to go with the overgrown vegetation look in most of the traffic circles--rather than sculptures or statues--so such landmarks really aren't appropriate.  Plus nearly all of our roundabouts come in multiples--so referring to two or four roundabouts in a row would actually make things more complex.  But here are some suggestions I have come up with.

The four roundabouts at Ninth Avenue and Highway 41: The Tourist Trap.  If there is anywhere in Oshkosh that you are going to be involved in a crash with one of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Event City every year--this would be the spot.  During EAA this year, I witnessed an SUV with New Jersey plates roll right through three of the four roundabouts without yielding to traffic on the left a single time.  That was balanced out by the truck with Kentucky license plates that kept stopping in the roundabout to allow traffic to enter from the right.  Just this past Sunday afternoon, a woman in a car with Michigan plates never even slowed down to cut in front of me in the roundabout along Washburn--forcing me to lock up the brakes and blast my horn.  She flipped me off, by the way.  Apparently her illegal manuever was my fault.

The two roundabouts at Witzel and 41: The Boat Crash.  I thought about calling these roundabouts the "Wrong Way Old Farts" because I and five others have all witnessed different incidents involving elderly drivers going clockwise through the roundabouts--or driving the wrong way in circles on the cobblestone interior.  But for me, these roundabouts will forever be made famous by the crash a few years ago involving a car and a boat that I witnessed on the way back to work from lunch.  Apparently, the car knocked the boat off a trailer that was being hauled by a minivan.  It remains the only traffic crash that required investigation by both the Oshkosh Police Department and the DNR.

The four roundabouts at Highways 21 and 41: The Truckers' Nightmare.  Given the number of semis that have to navigate these roundabouts--and the caution they have to use not to crush cars turning inside of them in the other lanes--this is a fitting name for this complex.  It's also fun to see the big rigs try to get from the lane they needed to take in two roundabouts to the one they need to make a turn in the third roundabout during periods of heavy traffic.  It's amazing that Festival Foods, Menards, Lowes and the gas stations don't have everything delivered by cargo helicopter by now.

The roundabout at Jackson and Murdock: The KFC Roundabout.  This was an easy one--as the name pays homage to the Kentucky Fried Chicken that once stood at that intersection--but had to be purchased by the city and torn down to make way for the roundabout.  KFC is yet to rebuild in Oshkosh--a culinary loss that is still mourned by many.

BONUS: The intersection of Oshkosh Avenue and Sawyer Street: The One Intersection That Needs A Roundabout.  If there is one confusing and convoluted point in Oshkosh that could actually be made better by installing a roundabout this would be it.  Where else have you driven where people making a left-hand turn go behind you?  And then you have seven stoplights all within twenty feet of each other.  Of course, I'm told a roundabout can't be put there because you need the stoplights to control traffic when there is a boat going under the drawbridge and the cars all get backed up.  Figures.

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