Caltrans to discuss median, roundabout concept for Hwy 49
A new concept that could help address safety concerns along Highway 49 — which includes the installation of a concrete median barrier and roundabouts — will be presented to the public by California Department of Transportation staff Tuesday at the North Auburn Municipal Advisory Council meeting.
The concept was first proposed during a State Route 49 Stakeholders Committee meeting in August. Caltrans Public Information Officer Liza Whitmore said the department will present initial design graphics and a more in-depth look at the proposed plan at Tuesday’s meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Placer County Planning Commission Chambers, 3091 County Center Drive, Auburn.
Roundabouts on Highway 49 would allow drivers prevented from turning left by the proposed concrete median barrier to reverse course “in an efficient and safe manner as well as address a frequently voiced community concern — speeding motorists,” the department said in a news release.
Caltrans is soliciting public feedback on the concept at Tuesday’s meeting. The proposed safety project is a response to a recent spike in highway fatalities, Whitmore said.
Ten safety improvement projects on Highway 49 are planned by Caltrans over the next six years, Whitmore said, in addition to increased funding for California Highway Patrol enforcement of traffic laws. Those projects include installing flashing beacons at Alta Sierra Drive, upgrading intersection lighting at Brewer Road, installing radar speed feedback signs at various locations, and widening shoulders in some areas, among others.
Scott Allen, a Nevada County resident who helps run the “Fix49.org” campaign with his 11-year-old daughter, Jolie, called the idea of installing a center median and roundabouts “genius.”
Scott and Jolie set up a weekly booth at Grass Valley’s Thursday Night Markets this summer to discuss what they say are much-needed safety improvements on Highway 49 with market attendees. After talking with over 1,200 people during the six-week run of markets, Scott said, he found that the majority of people are in favor of installing a concrete median barrier along the highway.
The majority of fatal accidents that occurred along Highway 49 in Nevada County this year, he said, could have been prevented by a median barrier. And the proposed roundabouts, he said, would help curb the issue of speeding motorists.
Deborah Jones, a Nevada County resident who was involved in a head-on collision on Highway 49 in 2003, said she’s “not totally sold” on the idea of roundabouts yet.
Jones, along with her husband Bruce, started the “Citizens for Highway 49 Safety” campaign and have been advocating for safety improvement projects along Highway 49 for more than a decade.
The roundabout proposal, Jones said, “is really an out-of-the-box concept. It’s not something we’re used to here in the U.S.”
She’s concerned that roundabouts might confuse drivers who aren’t familiar with them, and may make it difficult to merge onto the highway, she said. She fears they may also take up a substantial amount of land.
“We just need to get more information on (the concept),” she said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4231.
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