Wheels set in motion for East Main roundabout | TheUnion.com

Wheels set in motion for East Main roundabout

The contract for the roundabout at East Main Street and Idaho-Maryland Road in Grass Valley was approved Tuesday night, and motorists should expect construction work to begin soon at the busy intersection.

The Grass Valley City Council accepted a bid of $1.4 million from local contractors Hansen Bros. Enterprises, which was $500,000 less than what the city thought the project would cost to construct.

The city hopes the firm can start July 1 and complete the project in the 80 days allotted, or around late October, said Public Works Director Tim Kiser. Most work will be done at night to avoid confusion and traffic congestion.

Construction crews will funnel drivers into the project in phases to familiarize them with the roundabout as it’s being built, Kiser said.

The project will include trees and mining memorabilia in the middle to catch motorists’ attention and make them realize they can’t drive over it. The design also will provide entrance and exit ramps for the adjacent Golden Center Freeway.

The roundabout is a free-flowing alternative to signals, where drivers pull up to an intersection with yield signs that direct them into a constant circle of traffic going left. There already are several roundabouts in Nevada County, including one at the entrance to Sierra College in Grass Valley and two in Truckee.

Rounded intersections have been in the United States since 1904, when the Columbus Circle was built in New York City, according to the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The Columbus Circle and others began to pop up in the eastern United States but fell out of favor by the 1960s because they allowed drivers to turn left or right into them, causing traffic tie-ups and confusion.

Experts at the Road Research Laboratory in the United Kingdom came up with the concept of the modern roundabout, when they realized drivers couldn’t turn into oncoming traffic to make them work. The British decided to use splitter islands to force motorists into the roundabout, which eliminated the turn into oncoming traffic and forced drivers to yield to traffic from the left.

Once that design was implemented in 1966, roundabouts flourished around the world, particularly in Europe, where there are 15,000 in France alone. There are more than 600 roundabouts in the United States with plans for more, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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