AROUND AND AROUND WE GO: MARLTON CIRCLE REVAMP WILL BE AN UGLY PROCESS

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 19, 2003

Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists. Nukes being developed in North Korea. West Nile, ebola, SARS, anthrax. El Nino, El Nina, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards. Greenhouse effect, global warming, global freezing. Sequels and remakes of movies I didn’t see the first time.

There are plenty of things to worry about in this world, most of them made more worrisome because, even if they are not inevitable, they are out of our control. So we continue with our lives as though the dangers don’t exist, and then wonder why we are in a constant state of low-level anxiety.

But there is one future event that has me in a state of high-level anxiety. I don’t know exactly when it will occur, but it is inevitable. It is a necessary evil that has the power to disrupt my life and that the lives of my neighbors for several years.

Yes, my friends, the elimination of the Marlton Circle is coming.

We’ve lived through it before, but the morphing of the Race Track, Ellisburg, and Medford Circles into their current configurations as intersections complete with jug handles, made barely a ripple in my every day life.

I even crossed the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge almost daily while it underwent its reconstruction. But, paradoxically, the Tac-Pal had virtually no traffic jams as the support struts were reinforced and the lane configurations altered. Apparently, most drivers assumed there would be massive back-ups and took the Betsy Ross instead, leaving a hassle-free commute for those of us willing to risk a bridge opening.

But this long-planned, long-awaited, and long-disputed project – the current plan is to build an overpass for the through traffic on Rte.73, with access roads to get to Rte. 70 and the local businesses that are left after eminent domain – has the potential to make life for those of us who go there even more difficult than it is now.

And difficult it is. Except for the mile-long back-ups getting into the Circle, some of the routes are doable – continuing through north or south on Rte. 73, turning east onto Rte. 70 while traveling north on 73, turning west onto 70 from 73 south, or turning south onto 73 from 70 east. If you watch out for the vehicles coming around the Circle and stay in the right lane, it’s even possible to continue straight when you’re on 70 east.

I’m not a rookie when it comes to traffic circles. After all, I learned to drive in Boston, where the circles are called “rotaries” and can appear without warning in the middle of nowhere. But driving west on 70 and trying to merge into the Circle is a nightmare.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to go straight, and have been forced into the right turning lane; and other times when it has taken me longer to merge into the left lane so I can turn onto 73 south than to walk. And walking would be less dangerous. (It’s not dangerous to walk on a highway when the cars aren’t moving.)

“Everyone knows” that the vehicles already in a circle have the right-of-way. To reinforce that idea, the Red Lion and Four Mile Circles even have yield signs. But in fact, there is no law on the books in NJ stating how to go around a circle. (I checked this information with my in-house expert – a tenth grader taking driver’s ed.)

So I look forward to anything that will make that intersection more manageable. I happily anticipate the end result. It’s the process I dread.

Living east of Rte. 73 and north of Rte. 70, accessing Rte. 73 north is easy. Except, again, for the inevitable traffic. But I’ve begun exploring alternate routes to get to Rte. 73 south.

And I’ve found them.

There are a lot of small roads – ones you don’t even notice when you’re on Rte. 73 – that wind through housing developments or rural areas of Evesham and take you where you want to go.

But I’ve noticed lately that a lot of others have found them, too.

All of a sudden, it seems as though these small streets have become thoroughfares. And, being small, mostly residential streets, they have no traffic lights. One person trying to make a left turn can cause as bad a jam as an out-of-towner trying to negotiate the Circle.

I leave the stockpiling of dry ice and batteries and bottled water to others. I’m planning for the future apocalypse by poring over maps.

And if anyone from Evesham Township Council is reading this: a traffic light at Brick and Evans Roads would be nice.

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