Highway 49 safety fixes south of Nevada County to include roundabouts | TheUnion.com

Highway 49 safety fixes south of Nevada County to include roundabouts

This stretch of Highway 49 is slated for safety improvements that include a median barrier and two roundabouts.
Courtesy Caltrans

The idea might seem out of left field.

But Caltrans is moving forward with plans to improve driver safety on a stretch of Highway 49 in north Auburn that include roundabouts at several intersections.

The state transportation agency hosted a community open house in Auburn Wednesday to discuss plans for that section of highway, from just north of Lone Star Road to south of Lorenson Road, with project displays and information on the anticipated schedule.

Caltrans is proposing an $18.7 million project intended to reduce “cross centerline” collisions, with the construction of a median barrier between the north and southbound lanes and roundabouts at the Lorenson Road and Lone Star Road intersections.

“The median barrier is the main thing,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Raquel Borrayo.

Some locals expressed skepticism at the concept, particularly on social media, calling roundabouts an “instant traffic jam.”

But roundabouts have been enthusiastically supported by local Highway 49 safety advocates.

“That would be fabulous,” said Scott Allen, who along with daughter Jolie has been very vocal in his support for such fixes.

Jolie Allen developed a website, http://www.fix49.org, to draw attention to the safety issues on Highway 49 and collected about 3,000 signatures as of 2018 to make the highway safer. The Allens have been attending occasional citizen stakeholder meetings attended by Caltrans officials, Scott Allen said.

According to Scott Allen, the idea to use roundabouts on Highway 49 was broached about 18 months ago, after Caltrans engineers drove that section of highway.

Roundabouts would allow for a center median and would control speed, allowing drivers a safe way to access the highway, he said.

Drivers coming out of driveways will only be able to turn right and drive to the next traffic circle, where they can safely turn around to go the other direction. Drivers will have two lanes, but they will need to slow down to get through the roundabouts.

While this sounds radical, Scott Allen said, it has worked very well in other states, including Washington, as well as closer to home in Truckee.

“In Truckee, Caltrans has piloted several roundabouts,” he said. “They work very well.”

It is not clear when this project would get underway, possibly not until 2023.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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