Friday, July 6, 2012

I'll Be the Roundabout

Yesterday, the cry of a peregrine falcon echoed through downtown Binghamton, New York.

Ignoring the stilled machinery, the dug up streets, the detoured traffic, the falcon patrolled the skies above its home, the Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York building.

Below him (or her), the Roundabout slowly takes shape.

It's the talk of all Binghamton, New York.  And not in a nice way.  Everyone who works downtown, or shops downtown, or just passes through downtown, has an opinion.  Many times, that opinion is unprintable.

Will The Roundabout, aka the Court Street Gateway Project, save our burnt out industrial city of some 47,000 citizens?  Or will it help to destroy it?  And why should you, dear reader who probably doesn't live in Binghamton, care?

Because a roundabout may be coming to an intersection near you, that's why.

This is the latest flavor of Urban Renewal.  It's the answer to our traffic prayers.  Of course, there have been other flavors of urban renewal served to Binghamton with disastrous results.  For example, the downtown pedestrian mall that almost killed our fair city when it became a hangout for undesirables.  The street was eventually reopened to traffic, several million dollars later.

This roundabout is so controversial, the City of Binghamton has devoted part of its website to trying to justify it, trying to reassure its citizens that our downtown will be all the better for it.

There is even a video that allows us to "drive" through the roundabout.  And a FAQ page.  We are told that we may oppose it now, but we'll love it once we've driven on it several times.

It's hard to visualize it now.  When you look at it, you can hardly believe that cars will even fit on it.  You just know that some idiot, traveling drunk late at night, is going to miss a curve and end up decorating the lobby of one of the office buildings or businesses lining the roundabout.

As a pedestrian, I'm concerned too.  Especially after someone lost control of their vehicle about two weeks ago, went up on the sidewalk, hit a pedestrian and ended up partially inside a convenience store which (if you know where it is) is visible in the first picture above.  No, it wasn't the fault of the construction but it still makes me wonder how drivable that roundabout will be.

Since March we working downtown have endured constant drilling, dust, detours, and worse.  I feel bad for the office workers working directly in front of the construction. Right now the jackhammers are stilled because this weekend is Binghamton's July Fest.  So I was able to hear the cry of peregrine falcons for the first time in months.

But Monday the drilling will resume.

Has your town or city built one of the new-style roundabouts?  If so, do you like it? Or not?

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