Belgium’s first “turbo square” has been inaugurated outside of Ghent, as reported by Belgian news outlet VRT. The turbo square is like a roundabout except that vehicles have to choose in advance where they want to go. Because it’s not possible to drive around it, it’s not called a traffic circle but a traffic square.
“Turbo” refers to the capacity: the new intersection can theoretically swallow more than 6,000 vehicles per hour. That’s more than one vehicle per second. And that is necessary: measurements taken in 2012 already counted more than one vehicle per second at the busiest times. The junction is a critical point for the mobility around Ghent and the port companies.
“A first solution was to redesign the existing intersection but traffic jams would have persisted,” explained Marijn Struyf, of the organization renovating the Ghent ring road on behalf of the Flemish government. “That’s why we have opted for a turbo traffic square that can handle up to 25% more traffic than the traffic that is already there today. It is a solution that works well in terms of traffic flow.”
The newly inaugurated “turbo square” has traffic lights and separate lanes for each direction, giving traffic more space and improving traffic flow. It is also considered safer because drivers are no longer allowed to change lanes.
Thirteen months ago I stood here to put the first spade in the ground. Today we see that it works very wellLydia Peeters, Flemish Minister of Mobility
Drivers must know and choose where they’ll go before entering the turbo square. Because of the dedicated lanes in each direction, traffic has more room, and it also runs more smoothly. The Brussels Times reports that a study by Dutch research firm TNO revealed that drivers might get confused while entering the turbo square the first time. Later, they come to appreciate the more efficient traffic flow.
The turbo square in Oostakker, outside of Ghent, is the first in Belgium. “In the future we want to expand this unique project to other places because we see that it works well,” said minister Peeters. “We are on a busy zone along the port area. Normally it would be very busy here but there is a very smooth flow. Everyone is already used to it and knows where to go. It’s working and that’s the idea.”
The new square is the start of a series of projects in which the Flemish government wants to reform the R4, the ring road around Ghent. “In total we have 16 projects that we want to accelerate, including three bicycle bridges in Ghent,” said the minister. According to the Brussels Times, a turbo square can process on average up to 11,000 vehicles per hour, while an ordinary intersection can only handle 8,000 vehicles.