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Colfax roundabout moves forward

By: Mindy Schiller, Staff Writer/Page Designer
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Plans for the Colfax roundabout continue to move forward, culminating in the City Council’s expected passage of the hiring of the engineering firm Psomas Engineering to oversee construction of the project.

The actual construction of the roundabout is slated to begin in April and end in September, which, according to Mayor Will Stockwin, is an aggressive schedule. It will be conducted in multiple phases, so Auburn Street is never blocked and one lane is always left open.

"We're not gonna just blow up the whole thing," Stockwin said.

The roundabout will be built on S. Auburn Street at the first I-80 westbound Colfax exit. The first phase will include building an easement on the land that is now Maidu Village Travel Center, an undeveloped plot of land owned by Colfax Auburn LLC. An ARCO gas station and mini mart will be constructed here as well.

Plans for a roundabout have been in the works for a long time, punctuated by public meetings and at least three workshops at which viewers could raise concerns and ask questions of the designers. The project will cost $2.45 million, of which most will be financed by state and federal grants. According to Stockwin, the city has all but $125,000 raised.

"The city is not spending a lot of money on this," he said.

Stockwin said the response to the roundabout has generally been positive.

"People are more in favor of it when they hear what a traffic light costs," Stockwin said. "Until then, some folks say, 'Why don't you just put in a traffic light instead?'"

The cost of installing one traffic light is roughly $1.5 million, and the city would need three — totalling $4.5 million — almost double what the roundabout will cost.

According to Stockwin, price is only one reason a roundabout is a better option than traffic lights. The most important is that it eliminates the potential for the most dangerous kind of crash, which is a driver running a traffic light and then "t-boning" another vehicle in the intersection.

"It virtually eliminates that possibility," Stockwin said.

A roundabout also legalizes the infamous "California stop," a rolling stop that many drivers use instead of coming to a full stop.

"We do that anyway," Stockwin said. "Now it'll be legal."

Finally, in contrast to traffic lights, roundabouts actually keep traffic flowing and make movement easier. Due to the planned design of the curb, this roundabout will accommodate any kind of vehicle coming off of the interstate highway, including an 18-wheel truck.

"Everything goes through this thing,” Stockwin said. "The whole idea is to make driving easier and safer."