Purcellville may be the first town in Loudoun County to have a traffic circle instead of a traditional four-way intersection if the Town Council decides to fund the proposed project at the intersection of Routes 7 and 287 at the east end of town.
The circle, also called a roundabout, would link the proposed southern connector road -- an extension of Route 287 -- to the existing "T" intersection. The road, partially constructed but still a controversial subject, is meant to ease congestion by creating a new route for residents who live south of town to bypass Purcellville's main street, a business portion of Route 7.
Michael T. Ruddy, the town's planning director, unveiled the $2.3 million proposal at a public meeting Thursday evening, saying a roundabout is safer than a four-way intersection because the configuration slows drivers and is cheaper because no traffic light is needed.
A roundabout is a circular road with a grassy area in the center. Traffic entering the circle must yield to vehicles already in it. Drivers can quickly leave the circle if they take the first right-hand exit or continue in an alternative lane to another exit.
"This is at the preliminary design stage and is not final," Ruddy told the audience of about 50 residents. He said Feb. 3 is the deadline for comments on the design proposal.
One resident asked whether accidents would be more difficult to clear in a roundabout.
"It would probably be easier because the accidents are less serious," Ruddy said, "mostly sideswipes instead of head-ons."
Although the meeting was called to discuss the design, many questions dealt with the need for the two-lane connector road, a project approved by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in 1999 but not endorsed by the Purcellville Town Council.
No town funds have been approved for construction of that road, but proffers by developers to build sections of it have been accepted and work has begun.
Although the council voted to fund the design proposal for the intersection, there is no certainty that it will be built.
Council member Nick W. Pelchar, who attended the meeting, said that although a majority of residents was opposed to the connector road, "I don't think this project is dead."
As to the roundabout, Pelchar suggested that a simpler and cheaper solution would be a ramp bringing the connector road into the intersection.
Catherine Falknor was among those whose main concern was the road because she lives on residential A Street, which is in its path.
"There isn't much space there," she said. "The porches are close to the road, and there is a lot of wildlife and children at play. It's not easy to push a lot of trucks and traffic through there."
Another resident asked Ruddy whether the road was a "done deal."
"Yes, it's a done deal unless the town negotiates new agreements with the developers," he said.