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Will this be the new ’roundabout’ way of welcoming you to Downtown Manassas?

MANASSAS — Does it solve a traffic problem? Or does a proposed traffic circle on Route 28 simply create a new grand entrance for Downtown Manassas?

The city will spend $75,000 on a study that will look at creating a new roundabout at the intersection of Route 28, Sudley Road, and Prescott Avenue. If built, it would replace a signal light in a busy part of town surrounded by grocery stores, pharmacies, and car dealerships.

The area is also the eastern gateway to the city’s growing downtown area filled with independent restaurants, shops, and an events pavilion. The city will work with a contractor and use its coveted Nothern Virginia Transportation Authority funds to pay for the study.

The project will be part traffic study and part GIS mapping research to see if a roundabout would fit where four lanes of traffic come together at a traditional intersection controlled by a stoplight.

When the study is complete, “we’ll come back to [city] council and let them you if will it will work, Will it not work? What are the issues? And what will happen if we need to go in a different direction,” said Steve Burke, the city’s director of public works.

And while a nearly two-year environmental and feasibility study is about to get underway for a proposed Route 28 bypass — a completely different project — Burke said his roundabout study would be complete before that. If a roundabout is not determined to be the fix, the contractor has some ideas about how to improve the intersection as it sits today, added Burke.

Manassas City Councilman Marc Aveni isn’t thrilled about spending that much cash on a roundabout study. He says the “most dangerous” intersection in the city is the nearby junction of Route 28 and Liberia, and that the city’s focus should be placed on improving it.

“$75,000 seems to be a lot of money to see if something will or won’t work,” he said.

There are improvements planned for Route 28 and Liberia Avenue to include extending the length of the left turn lanes from Route 28 south to Liberia Avenue, as well as making a right lane double a turn and through lane.

An August 27 crash at the intersection where the traffic circle would go was the springboard for the study, according to city documents. Police said a 21-year-old driver was speeding when he approached the intersection, misjudged the turn, and collided with the box that houses the controls for the traffic light. He suffered non-life threatening injuries, and speed and fatigue were to blame.

Mark Scheufler, who studies transportation policy and runs the @FixRoute28 Twiter and Facebook accounts, says a new roundabout would reduce the number of high impact-crashes at the intersection. Roundabouts can do this because, unlike traditional intersections, vehicles never cross paths.

But when it comes to helping traffic flow, the circle would be mostly ornamental.

“I don’t think it’s going to help traffic flow more than it is now, so I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Scheufler. “But from an economic development standpoint, it will be a beautiful gateway, and I’m sure they’ll have a big sign welcoming you to Manassas.”

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