City of Roseville beginning roundabout construction

Officials: element improves safety, traffic flow
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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When the Roseville City Council considered approving a roundabout for downtown, many residents expressed concern that the new feature would be confusing to motorists and lead to more collisions, but the city said the exact opposite reason motivates the project: improved safety.

That’s a claim supported by the Federal Highway Administration. Where a roundabout replaces a signal or stop intersection, crashes are reduced by 35 percent, injury accidents by 76 percent, fatalities by 90 percent and pedestrian collisions 40 percent.

“It’s safer,” said Roseville Public Works Supervisors Jason Shykowski. “The reason it’s safer is due to speeds.”

Drivers naturally drive slower in roundabouts, typically driving 15 to 20 miles per hour, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

“At that speed, you have a lot more time to react, so you can avoid accidents,” Shykowski said.

Construction for the city’s $4.2 million Oak Street Improvement Project in downtown, which includes the roundabout at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Oak Street, will begin Monday, April 21 and is expected to be completed this December.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction for construction, with intermittent complete road closures. While the contractor is allowed to work between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays, the city has said most work will be wrapped up by 4 p.m. and will not interfere with special events or Downtown Tuesday Nights, which begin May.

Drivers through the Washington/Oak area during non-peak hours will not be impacted, but commuters are advised to find alternative routes. Off-street parking in downtown will also be affected, and city officials suggest people use the free garage on Vernon and Oak streets.

The improvement project includes the roundabout; installation of traffic signals at the corners of Oak and S. Grant, and Oak and Lincoln Streets; streetscape improvements and the realignment of Oak Street; and a new right-turn lane on Lincoln Street. Oak Street will be narrowed slightly and landscape features will be added.

In addition to improved safety, roundabouts allow for traffic to flow more efficiently through an intersection and can accommodate a higher volume of vehicles, Shykowski said, adding that currently drivers going through the intersection often have to stop even in times of light traffic. But that will change for drivers once the roundabout is operational.

“Chances are you will never have to stop,” Shykowski said.

Because the roundabout will flow in a counter-clockwise manner, drivers must only look to the left and avoid one area of conflict. Roundabouts have fewer points of potential conflict. This design also makes the element safer for pedestrians, which coincides with the city’s ongoing efforts to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly as part of the Downtown Specific Plan.

City spokesman Brian Jacobson said the fire department was involved in the planning of the Oak Street Improvement Project to ensure the roundabout would not negatively impact response times.

“It will not … The roundabout is large enough and designed so large trucks can travel through it without delay,” Jacobson said.

Roseville City Council approved the roundabout with a 4-1 vote in March 2013. Councilwoman Pauline Roccucci cast the dissenting vote, and reiterated her disapproval at a recent council meeting.

“I think roundabouts are fine in many places, but I just disagree that they will be fine there at Oak and Washington,” Roccuccu said, during the March 19 meeting, adding that she didn’t agree with the cost involved.

Future downtown revitalization projects include the relocation of Fire Station No. 1 from Oak Street to Lincoln Street, which should finish in 2016, and three bridge projects, scheduled to begin in 2016.