BARSTOW • City staff and a roundabout engineer talked to Barstow residents Thursday evening at the City Council chambers about how a roundabout could improve city streets.
A proposed one-lane roundabout at Mountain View Street and Belinda Avenue, adjacent to City Hall, would be a demonstration project to help residents adjust to driving in a roundabout. If all goes well, the feature would be used at Rimrock Road and Muriel Drive — a busier intersection — and maybe elsewhere.
Roundabout specialist Scott Ritchie explained that roundabouts can handle a higher amount of vehicles than traffic lights without creating long backups. As he played a video of a light traffic flow of cars circling a roundabout, Ritchie said, "This handles more traffic per day than the total population of your town."
Ritchie, of Sedona, Ariz., runs a company called Roundabouts & Traffic Engineering, which has helped local agencies build roundabouts throughout the country.
Ritchie said roundabouts were a smart tool for communities because they reduced accidents, vehicle emissions, traffic congestion and looked nicer than traffic lights.
Assistant City Manager Oliver Chi said he thought the conversation shifted from concerns about a roundabout's suitability to what locations would be best for a roundabout. The audience was "very receptive" to the plan after listening to Ritchie's presentation, Chi said.
Edward Weinberg, a 62-year Barstow resident, was among those not sold on the idea. He said he had been driving for 50 years and never had a problem at the intersection of Mountain View Avenue and Belinda Drive.
"You're looking for a solution where there is no problem," Weinberg said. He added that he believed statistics showing roundabouts lowering accidents at an intersection may be skewed because drivers could actually just be avoiding the roundabout.
Ritchie said that building a roundabout next to City Hall would make a positive impression on developers and business interests who use the Civic Center area.
Some, like Barstow resident Mike Hernandez, were skeptical of the argument, saying that the city's renovation of Main Street failed to accomplish a similar goal of promoting economic growth.
While roundabouts have safety benefits, accidents are not an issue at the intersection, which has had one accident in the past five years, City Manager Curt Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the cost of the roundabout would be lower since the city is already going to repave Mountain View Avenue. Ritchie said that roundabouts were more expensive to install than a traffic light, they required less maintenance over time, eventually making the cost comparable.
City staff said that ultimately, a revitalized Mountain View Avenue could make the street safer for pedestrians crossing between City Hall and the county courthouse, and for children from nearby schools.
Chi said that staff will be completing their feasibility study on the issue and they plan to bring the study to the City Council in March for further review.
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