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Alexandria’s traffic circle – a dizzying ride

As I write this, I am planning my route home from Alexandria, La., where I’m in the middle of the Louisiana Agricultural Technology and Management Conference, sponsored by Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association. It’s a great conference, as usual, but I’m having to leave early because of another round of winter weather.

Alexandria, or “Alex” as it’s known around here, is a typical southern city in many ways, except for one -- its traffic circle.

A traffic circle – in some places, they’re called roundabouts – is essentially a circular intersection with an island in the middle. All the cars are going in one direction and are constantly entering and peeling off the circle onto streets that connect to the circle like wheel spokes. It’s both creative and confusing, somewhere between a great idea for keeping traffic moving in a busy city and a wormhole into another dimension.

If you know what you’re doing, you can get on and off without much trouble, but if you’re not familiar with the design or the local geography, it can be dizzying. The Alexandria traffic circle is imposing. It encloses an island of trees and spans the length of several of football fields.

If you driving in the city, you can’t avoid the doggone thing. Even if you make a mistake, peel off on the wrong road and have to stop and ask directions, you always get the same answer, “Well, you go back to the circle …”

If not for the excellent advice from a friendly citizen, I might still be contributing to the wear and tear of the asphalt in the circle.

The Alexandria traffic circle even has its own Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=175891795776 [5], with 31 members who both love and loathe the feature. One member expresses horror at an apparent plan to build a second traffic circle in the city. Another, a beauty is in the eyes of the beholder type, says there’s no problem with the circle, rather the “dumb” drivers who try to use it. One suggests using spike strips to discourage discourteousness.

In defense of traffic circles, studies show that they do decrease accidents versus traditional intersections.

Alexandria’s traffic circle will be a breeze compared to what is looking more and more like another white knuckle adventure to Memphis on Thursday morning.

If you’re wondering if all the snow and ice of this winter disproves global warming, not so fast. I heard a meteorologist on The Weather Channel explain that yes, the world is getting warmer, it’s just not getting warmer here in the United States. That carbon dioxide stuff sure acts in mysterious ways.

No doubt, something is screwy with the climate. In one part of the world, the ice caps are melting. And right here in the warm, friendly Mid-South, Ice Road Truckers could film an episode on Interstate 40.