Wednesday, Roseville city public works officials are expected to round out their recommendations for a city-planned roundabout in the center of town.
Hailed as a solution for easing traffic in and out of the Washington "Seawall" Underpass, city staff contend the roundabout would improve traffic flows and safety, while creating a new city landmark. However, opponents have argued the roundabout could be an eyesore as well as a traffic nightmare.
City Public Works Director Rhon Herndon said he understands some of the public’s apprehension about the project.
“It’s a lack of familiarity with driving roundabouts,” said Herndon. “Because we don’t have that many here. Unlike Europe where they are as popular as traffic signals."
If a roundabout isn't built, Herndon's team forecasts traffic at the intersection would double by 2025. Currently, up to 21,000 cars a day travel at the site, he said.
"If we left a traffic signal there until 2025 there would be an average delay of 55 seconds per vehicle and that would be level of service E," said Herndon, with A being the best level of service. "The average delay for a roundabout would be 24 seconds per vehicle or less than half of what it would be with a signal."
Safety proponents of roundabouts site fewer occurrence of fast-moving broadside accidents. They claim such accidents are more likely at traditional traffic-signal intersections.
Specifically, Herndon sites a 2000 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study that reported a 39 percent decrease in the severity of accidents and 76 percent decrease in injury accidents along streets where traffic circles replaced traditional signal intersections.
Roseville's planned roundabout project is part of the city’s planned overall Oak Street Improvement, Herndon said.
In May 2012, the City Council voted to allocate federal funds to build the roundabout, specifically proposed to be located at the Washington Boulevard and Oak Street intersection.
While the total cost of the main project is $2.3 million, the roundabout itself is expected to cost $1.6 million, according to Herndon. Costs would cover new pavement, concrete curbs, gutters, sidewalks, retaining walls and utility relocations.
Varying from a one-lane roundabout to a two-lane roundabout, it’s average diameter is 135 feet, according to Zach Siviglia, with Mark Thomas & Company Inc., the project's design consultants hired by city officials.
Plans for the middle of the roundabout would include landscaping like ornamental trees, shrubs and other elements, according to Siviglia.
It isn't only Roseville residents who have been apprehensive about having large traffic circles. In Chico, for example, reaction was initially mixed when the city in 2009 built a 160-foot in diameter roundabout on Manzanita Avenue where East Avenue and Wildwood Drive meet.
"Some people don’t like them, but in general (the city's three roundabouts) received a pretty good welcoming," said Brian Mickelson, Chico traffic engineer.
Mickelson warned against building roundabouts at intersections with unbalanced traffic flow lacks.
"If you have a roadway where there is a lot of traffic in one direction, for example, one main line and a side street that has a small demand, then the side street is compromised and drivers can’t get into the roundabout easily," said Mickelson.
In Roseville, reaction varied from a quick sampling of shoppers and workers at The Fountains in Roseville, where there are three smaller one-lane roundabouts.
Renee Bower, of Sun Cal Real Estate Group with offices the outdoor mall, said she doesn't "love" them, but understands the "need" for them.
“Sometimes it’s a little confusing for older folks," said Bower. "When they are driving by themselves they get confused especially when they are turning toward traffic to make a left turn....you (can) get to that point and you only have a split second to think about it."
For Fountains’ shopper Tara White, the new traffic roundabout comes as good news.
“I have been very blessed to have been to Europe and they are all over the place,” said White. “I think Americans just need to get used to them.”
“I think they are a lot safer as long as they are used properly,” said White. “You just go around again if you miss (the exit).”
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