WatchSonoma Watch

Forestville roundabout opposed



Some Forestville residents are opposed to a roundabout at Highway 116 and Mirabel Road because they fear it

Forestville residents express their concern about the proposed roundabout along Front Street on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. (CONNER JAY/ PD)

Forestville residents express their concern about the proposed roundabout along Front Street on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. (CONNER JAY/ PD)

will rob the Russian River gateway of its small town charm.

Others think the interchange project is an unnecessary use of millions of tax dollars, which should be spent to improve other intersections.

Still others worry that the project will deprive their businesses of streetfront parking.

A loose coalition of residents has formed to oppose the project that has been in the works for at least a decade. But shutting down work now could mean forfeiting millions of dollars for a future Forestville bypass, county officials say.

“This is a waste of government money,” said Allison Bordessa, who lives just off Mirabel Road near where it forms a “T” with Highway 116. “It will ruin this little town.”

Forestville is the latest battleground in the fight over the circular traffic junctions that are popular in Europe but remain misunderstood here. They have sparked strong opposition in some Sonoma County communities, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Sonoma Valley. Cotati voters last year permanently banned roundabouts.

Ramona Crinella, who owns a vineyard on 72 acres south of the proposed project said the construction would eat into 10 percent of her planted land.

“It would be terrible,” she said. “I love every vine that we have. I’m a little bitter.”

County planners have coupled the roundabout, which could cost up to $7 million depending on bids, with a half-mile Forestville bypass.

The project was part of the Measure M sales tax that voters approved in 2004 for transportation projects. The bypass and roundabout will reduce traffic congestion through Forestville, county officials say.

“If you don’t build this first part (the roundabout), you don’t get the bypass,” said Tom O’Kane, deputy director of the county transportation and public works department. The roundabout would be at the northern end of a future bypass.

Opponents fear that the bypass, which has not been funded, may never be completed, leaving them with a “roundabout to nowhere” that they don’t want. Traffic congestion at that intersection has actually gone down since an original CalTrans study, they argue, and other junctions like River Road and Mirabel Road are more dangerous.

“There is no problem here,” said Dan Northern, a former Forestville fire chief. “They are only building a roundabout because some day they might build a bypass.”

The group has gathered 700 signatures of residents asking the Board of Supervisors to not approve the construction contract. Forestville’s representative on the board, Efren Carrillo, has been supportive of the project, his district director said. But his status is in limbo after his arrest last month on suspicion of burglary and prowling.

“He’s supporting a project that is supported by the community,” district director Susan Upchurch said. “There’s no movement by our office to stop the project.”

O’Kane said that $1.3 million has already been spent to design the roundabout. The project is now going through environmental review and could go out to bid in the fall. It should take one year to complete.

Many in Forestville support the roundabout, and the local planning association has been tasked with designing the landscaping in the center. The preferred design is three Valley Oaks around a clump of boulders.

Ken Smith, who chairs the Roundabout Design Committee, said that people will warm up to the plan once they have more experience using roundabouts.

“There’s a lot of fear because people haven’t experienced them,” he said. “I don’t see any downside to a roundabout except that it will take time for people to get used to it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com

6 Responses to “Forestville roundabout opposed”

  1. James Bennett says:

    No Roundabout, no by-pass eh?

    Folks from Occidental and Forestville are wondering where this uncalled for resolve to reconfigure their towns is coming from.

    Doesn’t seem like their priority…


  2. Emerson Burkett says:

    So, the folks opposed to this would like to see the the Gravel Trucks continue rolling through town, spewing dust everywhere? Not always driving at 25 mph? As I read it, the Roundabout is the first part of a “bypass” that would alleviate the problem. Also, that intersection as it it exists is quite dangerous; I know because I use it frequently.

  3. Reality Check says:

    I don’t get the hostility to roundabouts. They work. One is being constructed now on Adobe Road, to replace an intersection with a 4-way stop. On weekends when busy, it slowed traffic to a crawl. At other times when it wasn’t busy, it forced everyone to stop needlessly.

    Though, it will be interesting to see how the drunks handle it at night on the weekends.

  4. Elephant says:

    I have enough experience with roundabouts. I hate em. At least, all of the ones here in Sonoma County.

    The whole problems stems from the fact that all of the ones here are retro-fitted into a space not big enough. To properly size one, they need double the space for a single lane in a residential area. At 116 and Mirabel, you would need at least triple the space. Why so much space? So large trucks and buses can get through them safely WITHOUT tweaking their frames by running over the curbs.

    Besides, the main argument in favor of this waste of money is full of smoke. They rarely allow traffic to flow smooth. Say this is built at 116 and Mirable. The traffic coming off Mirable has to wait for a hole in the traffic heading east to merge into the roundabout. So much of the time, they will have to wait just as long or even longer than they do now due traffic backup because the roundabout will slow the 50 mph traffic down to 20 mph and create a jam.

    In the right location with the right design, roundabouts are ok. 116 and Mirabel isn’t one of them.

  5. Grapevines says:

    1.3 Million to design the roundabout??? 1.3 million to design what is basically a circle??

    Here’s 1) O
    Here’s another) O

    Who do I send my bill for 2.6 million to??

  6. GAJ says:

    Lose its small town charm?


    There are tens of thousands of far more charming small towns in Europe with roundabouts.