WatchSonoma Watch

Healdsburg moves roundabout plan forward


A long-planned traffic roundabout at a tricky, five-way central Healdsburg intersection advanced this week with the City Council authorizing $997,000 for its design.

In the works for more than a dozen years, it’s the first significant expenditure to make the roundabout a reality at the gateway to the downtown.

Despite losing its redevelopment agency, Healdsburg City Council has approved a $160,000 EIR for the Central Healdsburg Avenue study, which calls for an ambitious makeover for the main entryway to town.

A long-planned traffic roundabout at a tricky, five-way central Healdsburg intersection advanced this week with the City Council authorizing $997,000 for its design.

A long-planned traffic roundabout at a tricky, five-way central Healdsburg intersection advanced this week with the City Council authorizing $997,000 for its design.

The council authorized the design contract with engineering firm GHD Inc. but the city still needs to come up with $2.5 million-to-$4 million to build it, according to city engineer Brent Salmi.

He said construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2016.

While roundabouts have sparked controversy in other communities, Healdsburg appears to be looking forward to this one.

“The community has spent years and years looking at this. It’s what the community wants,” said City Councilman Gary Plass.

The intersection where Healdsburg Avenue, Mill and Vine streets closely converge with the railway tracks can be bewildering for motorists, especially those unfamiliar with it.

“Our officers do report occasional instances of drivers becoming confused in that intersection and maybe driving down the wrong lane, or making illegal turns in that intersection,” Police Chief Kevin Burke said Thursday.

There have been 12 collisions there since January 2009, which he described as typical for such a large intersection.

The roundabout is intended to make the intersection easier to navigate, safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and help connect the downtown to an adjacent industrial area considered for redevelopment.

Mayor Jim Wood said when he started on the planning commission in 2002, the concept of a roundabout was under discussion. “We’re still talking, but we’re moving in the right direction,” he said at this week’s council meeting.

Councilman Shaun McCaffery said when he looked at the million-dollar price tag for the design, “I thought it’s pretty expensive.” But he said he voted for it because it will be a complete plan for a very complicated intersection, and will include aerial overflights and redoing the utilities with the involvement of many contractors.

In a 28-page report outlining the scope of work, GHD detailed the engineering design elements, including roadway, rail, hydrology, utilities, landscape architecture, preparation of construction documents and community outreach.

“Part of the project cost and scope of work is a piece to educate the community what a roundabout is, so people get an understanding of the traffic patterns and what’s going in there,” said Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian.

The funds for the design work come from redevelopment bonds issued before the state dissolved redevelopment agencies.

Mickaelian said money to build the roundabout could come from remaining redevelopment proceeds, utility enterprise funds, street programs, or could be financed by developers planning projects in the vicinity.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)

5 Responses to “Healdsburg moves roundabout plan forward”

  1. R.B. Fish says:

    The roundabout is about politics in terms of creating prime real estate development opportunities that will bring tax revenues to the city. I am not from the city but know it fairly well. The proposed roundabout design is too small of a space with too many troublesome variables to accommodate anticipated future traffic. The single even double entry lanes will slow traffic but also cause back ups to the off ramp and into the town square. Similar to the Windsor fiasco.
    Obvious problematic issues are that the south exit is only way out of town whereas an off ramp at Mill Street would relieve much congestion. If there was a traffic issue namely a big town event or even weekend summer traffic the only way out is the local streets to the bridge. The only other is all the way back to Dry Creek. Can you imagine a loaded and lengthy SMART train, buses, multiple bike riders, delivery trucks and passenger cars at the roundabout when there is fire and life threatening emergency requiring an ambulance to get through. Imagine the confused visitor entering the wrong lane and stops to cross over.

    They spend all taxpayers money to feed downtown businesses and the rest of the city roads looks like 4 x 4 test track. Amen.

  2. MendoTech says:

    An interesting follow-on project to the failed Post Office roadway project.

    Anyone know (or care) how much these incompetent social engineers spent on that project? And, how much did the citizens spend on insurance claims for the numerous fender benders that resulted?

    Good thing the residents of Healdsburg are wealthy enough to afford this kind of boondoggle!!

  3. Phil Maher says:

    I suppose we can take the HPD at their word on the accident statistics, but in almost 25 years of driving through this intersection daily, I have yet to see one. In addition to that, the only real confusion I’ve seen occur that might even result in a problem is the occasional driver that’s unaccustomed to the conditions ending up driving into the railroad tracks. The rest of us seem to have no issues whatsoever. So, since accident statistics are normal, and the tracks currently offer the only really confusing outlet for merely a few (I’ve seen this maybe 5 or six times, at most), it seems we really don’t have a problem that should require a multi-million dollar solution. A roundabout will still need to require that the tracks run through it, and since the navigational errors appear to be largely on the part of visitors, who won’t know how to use a roundabout anyhow, maybe the best solution is to simply use better lane painting and signage. The council had no problem doing this on Foss Creek Circle, so why not try a much more cost effective solution in this case before committing to something that might look nice, but is still potentially going to be fraught with problems?

  4. Francis says:

    Idle, wealthy political hands are easily directed to projects that cry out not to be done. Healdsburg if they have so much taxpayer money for projects like this, need to refund monies to the taxpayers who are paying the freight for this kind on nonsense.

  5. Steveguy says:

    A MILLION dollars to design ? That is abject theft of public monies and it is a growing trend that the press should expose. I say ‘ should’ as this paper would NEVER doubt an excuse to fleece the citizens if in favor of their agenda. It is vile and disgusting and is happening with most every project proposed.

    Why do the politicians buy the constant excuses of ” well, this is a special case ” when a college class could knock it out in no time with time left over for parties ?

    This is not rocket science folks, it is basic street, curb and gutter work that has been done for decades at reasonable costs, not 1/3 of the actual construction costs.

    Be sheep as they are fleecing us.

    By the way- they all know that there is zero accountability for spending the money. We should demand all of the books to account for every nickel in a publicly released document. This is just one project, we should DEMAND transparent accountability from them all.

    Audit SMART, the Water Agency, and all of the other seemingly secret crooked expenditures that is common place lately.

    Someone needs to sue for full public disclosure as our local 4th Estate paper has ZERO interest in exposing the rampant fraud that exists in our public expenditures.

    Are our elected representatives this easily duped ? Seems so