To anyone who has driven a car in England, the idea of adopting a traffic roundabout to an American city might initially seem an invitation to disaster, or at the very least a boon to fender-bender business at local body shops.
Having said that, however, Toledo officials should look carefully at the consultant's proposal for revamping the Monroe Street-Collingwood Boulevard intersection and not reject this innovative idea out of hand.
What is being proposed is a traffic circle serving as one element in a revival of the Monroe Street corridor, which runs diagonally from downtown through the heart of Toledo.
Traffic would move counter-clockwise around the circle to connect Monroe, Collingwood, 23rd Street, and Oakwood Avenue, which would look like spokes in a wheel if viewed from above. There would be no traffic lights, only yield signs, for motorists entering the circle.
Because of expressways, Monroe Street no longer carries the number of vehicles to and from downtown as it once did, making a roundabout a feasible alternative to traditional stop-and-go traffic.
Planners believe the roundabout would add interest to the area east of the Toledo Museum of Art, hopefully smoothing traffic flow and serving as a gateway of sorts to an area of arts, entertainment, residential, and office uses toward downtown.
While a roundabout wouldn't guarantee new development, it certainly would be a visual improvement for the Monroe-Collingwood intersection, which is pretty much a relic of traffic patterns of the past, a drab expanse of pavement governed by a dozen or so signals.
Other than the nice view of the art museum that outbound motorists get while waiting at the intersection, there is nothing whatsover to recommend it.
Best of all, planners say, the traffic circle would save fuel for motorists - no irritating waits at lights - and probably would qualify for 100 percent federal construction funding.
In a city in which drivers routinely run red lights with a passion, the idea of eliminating signals entirely from an intersection might seem scary at first. But Monroe and Collingwood could be one place such a scheme might succeed without an undue amount of mayhem.
Obviously a true roundabout with continuous movement will require some getting used to, but drivers who like the idea that they don't have to stop will make the adjustment, we figure.
Toledo already has one quasi-traffic circle, at Broadway, Harvard Boulevard, Glendale Avenue, and River Road, south of the zoo. That intersection has some stop signs to regulate traffic so it does not qualify as a true, nonstop, roundabout.
Traffic circles are common in England, which has plenty of traffic and impatient, pedal-to-the-metal drivers, contrary to whatever image it may have had in years past as a sedate, polite place.
So, as the English might say, why not give the roundabout a go? It could jolly well work.