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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Round and around the roundabouts

Uploaded: Sep 3, 2019
We choose a good week to get out of town and enjoy the mountains around Lake Tahoe last week.

It was hot by Lake August standards, but much more reasonable that the scorching weather that captured the Livermore Valley. We had highs in the 80s every day, but a few afternoon breezes and a fan in our bedroom made it tolerable to sleep (our unit, like many older ones in the mountains, is not air conditioned). It is rare to go to sleep at 6,500 feet of elevation and need no more than a sheet all night.

Driving in Meyers just southwest of South Lake Tahoe, I was struck by the new roundabout under construction at the intersection of highways 50 and 89—the two all-season TransSierra routes feeding into the Tahoe basin from the southwest.

What was striking is the design forces incoming traffic to yield to cars in the circle that is designed for 15 mph. I have no idea of the history of accidents at the intersection, but I can imagine it is very busy on Saturday afternoons during ski season when people are returning from Kirkwood (Highway 89/88) and Sierra at Tahoe (50). There’s also a snow play area on Echo Summit that draws families.

Traffic inbound to South Lake Tahoe will proceed at a snail’s pace through the roundabout, while a bypass was designed for westbound traffic on Highway 50 to allow those motorists to bypass the 15 mph circle.

What’s interesting is to compare this roundabout with several in Bend, Oregon that were installed on the main road from the Mt. Bachelor Ski Area back to the city. They are much wider than the California version allowing cars to travel side-by-side. They replaced traffic signals so more traffic could flow efficiently. It seems like CalTrans has the opposite thought.

The agency did install three similar roundabouts in Kings Beach, including one at the busy corner of Highway 267 (the road to Truckee and Interstate 80). These will slow traffic and making it safer for pedestrians to cross in an area with plenty of businesses on both sides of the road.

The state of Nevada got into the act a few miles east where the Mt. Rose Highway (No. 431) flows into Highway 28 at Incline Village. It again is poorly designed with the 15 mph circle at a busy intersection of two major highways with limited pedestrian movement.

Roundabouts can be an effective traffic management tool, but they can be just the opposite as Pleasanton residents will remember from the ill-advised ones that the city had to take out on Vineyard Avenue.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Sep 3, 2019 at 3:48 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

I was in Reno for the weekend and I will say this: Casino money has done a lot of good for city streets, parks are nice and the Riverwalk was quite pleasing. But the interstates in and around Reno are even worse than the Bay Area and that is saying a lot.

The Nugget Rib Festival was devine!


Posted by Steve, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Sep 3, 2019 at 8:20 pm

You really should get educated by a traffic engineer before speculating about things that you know nothing about.

Posted by Heavious , a resident of Danville,
on Sep 4, 2019 at 7:54 am

Actually, roundabouts are awesome, especially when drivers understand that A: it's not a stop sign; B: there are courtesy rules-if a vehicle is already in the circle, they have righ-of-way, so don't try to squeeze in ahead of them; C: you follow the road, not drive straight through over the center median.
Here, that's the problem, because Yank-drivers are typically too impatient and bothered to learn and follow the rules, so they seem to be inefficient.
My experience in Ireland: circles were great and traffic, whilst perhaps slowing through them, did not stop. Where traffic came to a standstill was where the traffic light was installed. Took far longer to get past there.
So if you are a roundabout nay-sayer, perhaps you just don't get it and need to learn how to drive them.

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 4, 2019 at 10:12 am

Many years ago in the 1950's the city of Long Beach put in a roundabout at the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and the Main Street from Long Beach to the Ocean. My parents lived in Newport Beach and often drove to Long Beach airport to pick up friends coming to visit. One very foggy night they drove up to Long Beach to pick up friends. It was so foggy that the off ramps were invisible. Cars were driving around and around trying to find an exit. At one point they all put their windows down and were calling to others to see if anyone could find away out. I think it took about 4 or 5 times around until they found the right exit.

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