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Roundabouts Create Confusion in Mount Vernon

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MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - Mount Vernon's two new roundabouts are leaving some drivers dizzy. Cars can be seen stopping in the middle of the circles, others are headed the wrong direction. Motorists said they're struggling with the concepts.

"They're complicated and confusing," said 17-year-old Mackenzie Smith.

"There are signs all over the place, and you're trying to read the signs and figure out where to go. It's very, very confusing," said Rex Karas, a Mount Vernon resident.

The roundabouts are located on Highway 30, one at the intersection of 10th Ave, the other at Highway One. City officials said they expected some confusion when they opened.

"Certainly, there is a learning curve. They aren't as prevalent in this neck of the woods," said Dan Boggs, the city's engineer.

Boggs said research shows roundabout approval changes with time. He said, at first, most people don't like them, about 70% to 30%.

"Within two years it basically flip-flops," said Boggs.

To help people with the transition, and avoid future driving errors, the city has posted roundabout instructions on the Mount Vernon webpage and included an informational video.

"Most people here in town that have been driving it since last week are getting the hang of it," said Police Chief Mark Winder

Winder said police have been monitoring the roundabouts since they opened. He said all in all things are going well. The new circles are doing what they were designed to do-- improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

"The amount of traffic that is backing up is almost nothing compared to what it used to be. Three or four cars now, what used to be half a mile," said Winder.

But will those benefits be enough to drive some people's distaste to a better opinion? Maybe, in time.

"I think after people go through them a little bit, it'll be a lot less complicated. It's going to take some getting used to," said Smith.

City officials said they'll be meeting with the Department of Transportation in coming days to discuss some future improvements to the roundabouts. Some potential ideas are signs that are easier to understand, and more road markings.

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