New Wisconsin law covers truck use through roundabouts

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/13/2016

A new law in Wisconsin covers large trucks forced to navigate through an increasingly popular traffic pattern in the state.

Roundabouts have grown in popularity in the state in recent years following the U.S. Department of Transportation supporting their installation in order to slow traffic and reduce the frequency of severe wrecks.

According to the WisDOT website, there are more than 330 roundabouts on the state trunk highway system and on local highways. The agency also plans to incorporate the traffic pattern at locations within the Interstate 39/90 expansion project.

The growth comes as a Wisconsin DOT study found that roundabouts cut severe wrecks in Wisconsin by about one-third, but minor wrecks increased by about 12 percent.

In an effort to reduce certain wrecks, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill to permit truck drivers to “deviate,” or stray, from the lane to the extent necessary to approach and maneuver through a roundabout.

AB451 defines affected trucks as having a minimum total length of 40 feet or a minimum total width of 10 feet.

Also included in the new law is a requirement for operators of smaller vehicles to yield the right-of-way to large trucks. The rule applies when the driver of the smaller vehicle is approaching or driving through a roundabout at or near the same time.

For occurrences where two large trucks are approaching a roundabout at about the same time, the vehicle on the right is required to yield the right-of-way.

The new law took effect immediately.

A separate effort underway at the statehouse could throw a wrench into plans to construct additional roundabouts around the state.

The Assembly bill would prohibit construction of roundabouts by the state DOT unless local governments sign off on the projects.

Rep. David Craig, R-Vernon, has said his bill is a “commonsense measure” to allow local governments, which know their areas best, to make the final decision.

“They know local traffic flows, the concerns of people, business needs, and the types of traffic far better than the Department of Transportation bureaucrats in Madison,” Craig said in previous remarks.

Truckers note that while the traffic pattern does save fuel, it can be very difficult for large vehicles to maneuver through affected intersections.

Supporters of roundabouts say that DOT engineers know best when it comes to constructing intersections. They add that Craig’s bill would lengthen an already lengthy process and add more costs to projects.

The bill, AB326, is in the Assembly Transportation Committee. The Senate version, SB242, is in the Senate Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee.

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