Traffic flowing through new Grass Valley roundabout (VIDEO) |

Traffic flowing through new Grass Valley roundabout (VIDEO)

A vehicle incorrectly navigates Grass Valley's newest roundabout on Sutton Way Thursday.
John Hart/ | The Union

Grass Valley’s Department of Public Works installed the city’s third roundabout Wednesday morning, on Sutton Way near the Beach Hut Deli. That section of road was already wide enough, so all they had to do was paint in the stripes and put up a few signs.
Some education of local motorists might be in order, however.
The site became a candidate for a roundabout during the design phase of the Sutton Way Rehabilitation Project, when DPW personnel came out to observe traffic patterns through the area.
“There were several near-collisions in the minimal time that I was out there,” said Bjorn Jones, the civil engineer who designed the new roundabout.
“People didn’t know who was yielding to who, and there were drivers flying around the corner, so I saw a need to slow people down as they approached,” Jones said.
The roundabout was inexpensive, too. The shape of the road widened at the curve, so now pavement modifications were necessary for the installation. The whole thing cost less than $1,000 by Jones’ estimate, mostly for pavement striping and new signs.
He was on hand to observe the flow of traffic through the new roundabout on Thursday morning. Many motorists driving through seemed to be doing it wrong.
“There’s now a big yellow circle in the middle, and we’d like people to drive around the outside,” Jones said. “There is a double yellow line, so it’s an area you’re not supposed to be driving in.”
Commenters on The Union’s Facebook page did not respond favorably. One joked that the new roundabout looked like more of a suggestion than anything else.
Most roundabouts have an obstacle in the island. Mostly, that physical barrier prevents drivers from going through the middle — but that might not be a good option for this location.
Due to the proximity to many small businesses in the nearby shopping center, commercial semi-trucks need to be able to drive through the middle. A physical obstacle might impair the ability of longer vehicles to turn.
Jones said roundabouts can reduce the severity of damage and injuries, while also reducing the number of fatalities associated with an intersection. They reduce the speed of approaching vehicles, while also changing the angle of approach.
“Injury collisions are generally reduced at roundabouts because the travel lanes are gently curved to direct drivers into the intersection at an angle with the flow of traffic,” Jones wrote in an e-mail. “Because vehicles are travelling counterclockwise in the same direction around the roundabout, the possibility for dangerous T-bone and head-on collisions is all but eliminated.”
Jones hopes that in the coming days and weeks, drivers who regularly use that segment of Sutton Way will adjust to the new traffic pattern.
To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, send emails to or call 530-477-4230.

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