They're supposed to help keep traffic moving, but many Garden State motorists don't like or trust them. Traffic circles have been around for decades in New Jersey, but they are slowly being phased out in favor of what are called roundabouts.

The New Jersey "Circle." This one in Pennington. (Craig Allen photo)
The New Jersey "Circle." This one in Pennington. (Craig Allen photo)

Kevin Israel, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, said there is no formal policy in place to get rid of every traffic circle in the state. However, "we access the circle and the traffic environment in that area to determine what is the best change or alteration to make, to keep traffic flowing and make it as safe as possible."

Israel said the roundabout offers several advantages.

"A traffic circle is typically larger, so it affects the circulation speed of the circle inside, while the roundabout is designed to be smaller," he said. "There's a rigorous set of standards used to ensure that the speed in the roundabout is maintained to a safe level."

He said that makes it easier to get in and out of the roundabout.

"The traffic circle, as it stands today, can create an unsafe environment due to the speeds that occur in the circle," Israel said. "The traffic entering the circle has the right of way over the traffic in the circle, and often people believe that the traffic circulating within the circle has the right of way, so that can create a conflict situation."

The roundabout, as Israel pointed out, is used around the country, and is now one option NJDOT looks at when reconfiguring a traffic circle.

When traffic circles were first introduced, according to Israel, there were far fewer cars on the road and no one envisioned how crowded those roads would become.

In addition to roundabouts, Israel said in some situations simple turning lanes are replacing traffic circles. He estimates right now in New Jersey, there are only about 20 traffic circles remaining.

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