Stop signs pulled from traffic circle

A traffic circle that caused confusion with drivers will get some changes and, depending on how the community reacts, may become permanent.

Oak Harbor Engineer Larry Benfield said the city put up the temporary traffic-calming device at the intersection of Ely Street and SE Eighth Avenue in response to a high number of accidents, speeders and complaints from neighbors.

Not everyone liked the traffic circle. Some confused drivers took left turns without going around the circle; others didn’t stop at the stop sign.

Yet Benfield said, but it did seem to do the job. “The number of complaints were about equal to the positive comments,” he said.

The problem with the traffic circle, Benfield admits, was the stop signs. The whole point of traffic circles — which are like tiny, one-lane roundabouts — is to create a steady, but slowed flow of cars.

Next week, city staff plan to take out the two stop signs and install yield signs all the way around.

“It’s probably the way it should have been from the beginning,” he said.

Benfield said city engineers and police will watch the traffic circle for two or three months to see how things work out. If everything goes well, the temporary traffic circle may become permanent.

“We want to see how people will react to it in the wintertime, when it’s rainy and dark,” he said. “Our number one concern is the safety of people.”

Of course, that will also depend on whether or not city officials can find funding to install a permanent traffic circle.

Benfield said some confusion over the change to the traffic circle — installation of the yield signs — is inevitable.

But the driving etiquette, he said, is basic: Approach the circle slowly and yield to vehicles operating within the circle. Drivers must be particularly aware of opposing traffic making a left hand turn in front of them, that are in the circle. They are required to yield to the left turn movement.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at or 675-6611.

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