Roundabouts are polarizing in Delaware

New podcast explains DelDOT’s rationale for introducing more
April 5, 2024

Roundabouts are proving to be a polarizing issue in Delaware.

Anytime the Delaware Department of Transportation proposes one, it’s met with opposition. But DelDOT officials are firm on their stance that roundabouts are often safer and more efficient than signalized intersections.

Roundabouts were the topic of the first episode of DelDOT’s new podcast On the Move. DelDOT chief engineer and Deputy Secretary Shanté Hastings joined host Charles “C.R.” McLeod on the premiere episode Feb. 20. It can be found on YouTube.

“Our No. 1 goal is to improve safety,” Hastings said. “Roundabouts have been proven to reduce crash potential and be able to accommodate a large amount of vehicles and move them through in a safe manner.”

Hastings said people often confuse roundabouts with traffic circles or rotaries, which are larger circular intersections with different traffic patterns. She said people might think of the scene from “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” where the Griswold family gets stuck in a traffic circle and keeps seeing Big Ben and Parliament over and over.

Hastings said the U.S. really started embracing modern-day roundabouts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Unlike traffic circles or rotaries, roundabouts force drivers to slow down. Hastings said 20 to 25 mph is the typical speed through a roundabout, which is by design.

“They’re much smaller than circles and rotaries, which allows slower speed entering and easier exit movements,” she said.

The biggest safety benefit is a reduction in conflict points. A traditional four-legged intersection has 32 different points where vehicles could conflict with each other and cause a collision. A roundabout has just eight conflict points.

“They’re more efficient too, especially in those off-peak times,” Hastings said. “Think about a traffic signal – someone is always waiting. Whether it’s in the middle of the night, one of those streets is always waiting.”

During peak times, roundabout traffic is always circulating, she said.

“If you’re at a traffic signal, you’re potentially waiting a minute or a minute-and-a-half to make a maneuver every time if you don’t hit the light just right,” she said.

Roundabouts are also safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, Hastings said, because pedestrians have a shorter distance to cross and they have refuge areas. Bicyclists can cross in the same manner as pedestrians or they can ride through the roundabout with traffic, which is moving at a much slower speed, she said.

“Multimodalism is the way we’re going to be able to address the growth that we’re seeing,” she said. “We want people to be able to walk places, bike places, take transit, so having safe crossing locations is really important for folks.”

Roundabouts are also more resilient and sustainable than traffic signal intersections, she said. In terms of sustainability, she said traffic signals require upfront costs, maintenance costs and power to operate the lights.

“At some point, you have to replace it,” she said. “With roundabouts, you put it in and it’s good to go.”

From a resiliency standpoint, Hastings said roundabouts are always operational during storms. She said they’ve recently had traffic signals go out during inclement weather, which creates problems.

There are many misconceptions regarding roundabouts, she said. The most common is that other states are removing them.

“A lot of states are removing their traffic circles and rotaries, which are much larger circular intersections that have completely different intersection controls, and have safety and congestion issues,” Hastings said.

People often cite New Jersey as a state removing roundabouts, but she said the state won a National Rotary Safety Award in 2017 for the construction of a roundabout.

Another common misconception is that large trucks, emergency vehicles and farm equipment cannot navigate a roundabout. She said every roundabout is designed with a truck apron between the inner circle and the roadway to allow for such cases.

“It’s designed to be driven over by those larger vehicles,” Hastings said. “That’s what it’s for.”

Roundabouts are planned throughout the eastern Sussex County area. Many have been incorporated into the plans for grade-separated interchanges along Route 1, while others are being built in more rural areas. The most high-profile roundabout, at the intersection of Route 9, Plantation Road and Beaver Dam Road, is nearing completion and is expected to open by Memorial Day.

McLeod, DelDOT’s director of community relations, said the goal is to release a new On the Move podcast every other month on YouTube. They hope to expand the reach as more episodes are added to the library. The second episode, with a focus on safety, is expected to drop next week. 

“The goal is to do a deeper dive on transportation topics and issues that we believe are relevant to the public, and we are also seeking topic suggestions for future episodes, or questions that we can answer and talk about,” McLeod said. 

Suggestions may be emailed to To view the first episode of On the Move, go to


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