The new roundabout replacing the intersection of the Mileground and 705 in Morgantown has been a hot topic, and everyone has an opinion on it . Business-wise, it’s fantastic. This area in general has been booming the past few years, especially with the addition of the Suncrest Towne Centre off of 705. When it comes to safety concerns, this area isn’t too bad either. The new traffic pattern is meant to be safer and easier to use, although many residents argue otherwise.
These aren’t the issues. The problems lie in its core planning.
First, this is built next to a brand-new school, Eastwood Elementary. Elementary schools should be safe and have room for playgrounds and sports. They should be free of pollution–both physical and noise. Maybe it’s because I’m a proud Woodburn Elementary alumna, but there is something wrong with the mentality of closing two schools, one in a thriving neighborhood where students can walk instead of being driven, to build a brand new building in the middle of a dense business zone. Maybe there’s something more wrong with the school board for deciding the busy Mileground is the best place to build an elementary school, but the City of Morgantown should have considered this when building the roundabout. Major traffic areas meant to ease the flow of traffic have no place in what is supposed to be a 15 MPH zone (although they get around it legally by having a fence according to the school board).
According to WVU student and “townie” Bradley Gerber, the roundabout seems smaller than it should be.
“If a school bus is coming in there, it can be really difficult for it to maneuver around safely in a traffic circle. I haven’t seen what it looks like when [school] lets out, but I can imagine how difficult it is.”
Gerber takes the roundabout every day on his way to and from WVU.
“I’ve come up there before and it’s just completely blocked at the traffic circle.”
Luckily, that’s usually not the case because his class schedule doesn’t line up with rush hour.
Second, you have to look at Morgantown’s demographics: there are a whole lot of college students. Proponents for the roundabout have pointed to the success of Fairmont, W.Va.’s roundabouts, but Fairmont doesn’t have an unsteady population that’s ever changing. Every year parts of Morgantown’s population turns over when the new freshmen class comes in. This population is new, probably hasn’t seen a roundabout before and their families are not guaranteed to understand it, either. The roundabout would be more suitable for a non-college town without move-in days, family weekends and huge football games.
Don’t get me wrong, some people really do like it. Jimmy’s Sunoco station on the Mileground always had people pull into their parking lot to turn around and avoid waiting in traffic. That has virtually stopped with the traffic circle. However, between it’s location by an elementary school and the number of drivers that don’t have time to learn a new traffic pattern, the roundabout doesn’t belong on the Mileground.