By MATT BROWN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Some Forestville residents are opposed to a roundabout at Highway 116 and Mirabel Road because they fear it
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 firstname.lastname@example.org