Some of us have a love-hate relationship with the Highway 240 roundabout.
In theory, it's a great thing. It's supposed to keep traffic from four directions flowing at an even pace, without travelers headed in any one particular direction having to wait longer than the others.
And if every driver who used the roundabout followed the rules as the Washington State Department of Transportation intended, all would be well.
But as any of us who regularly drive through the roundabout can attest, many people either don't understand the signs directing them through the roundabout, or they just don't care.
The big problem is that there are two lanes of traffic in the circle, and the inside lane can exit, meaning drivers have to cross the outside lane of traffic to do so. And there you have the problem.
If you're entering the outside lane of the roundabout, a car on the inside lane might be about to exit directly in your path. But both drivers are following the directional signs they saw at the entrance to the traffic circle, even though they might be headed on a collision course by design.
You must yield to cars in both lanes of the roundabout. That means drivers wanting to enter the outside lane shouldn't dive into the roundabout if there is a car in the inside lane at any point in the traffic circle. But that doesn't happen, leaving drivers in the inside lane to take their chances.
Just don't use the inside lane, you say? Well, if you need to go three-quarters of the way around the traffic circle -- say Columbia Point trail to Steptoe -- the sign says you have to use the inside lane.
But too often, people coming from either direction on Columbia Park trail tend to bomb through the intersection like the yield signs don't apply to them.
Folks coming off 240 and taking the direct ramp to head west on Columbia Park Trail seem similarly confused. Many appear to miss the yield sign and fail to understand that westbound cars in the roundabout are entering the road at the same point.
People traveling down Steptoe to the roundabout have the most traffic to contend with leading up to its entrance, and then have to gauge whether the drivers approaching the roundabout from Columbia Park Trail will yield or just cruise right into the roundabout at full speed.
Near misses are commonplace. Accidents are a regular occurrence, though luckily most are at low speeds, creating more property damage than injuries.
Basically, it's a mess. But it doesn't have to be.
One Richland resident has made it his mission to get state transportation officials to improve the circular intersection. He's created a website, started a petition drive and even gotten a meeting with the state.
Those transportation engineers can show Gene Weisskopf just how the roundabout is intended to function in their diagrams and drawings.
"On a blackboard, I can see how it's supposed to work, but in the real world, I don't think they've got it," Weisskopf said.
For their part, transportation officials acknowledge that Weisskopf has some good ideas, but worry that if implemented, those changes would decrease capacity in the busy roundabout.
The two-lane circle has been open for nearly four years and problems persist. The state says the key is educating drivers, which sounds good in theory.
But those of us who already understand how we're supposed to navigate the roundabout are looking for ideas that are good in practice.
Weisskopf's suggestion for new signs and configurations just might fit the bill.