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Is a Roundabout in Healdsburg's Future?

Five-way intersection may be the ideal place for controversial traffic flow feature.

The City of Healdsburg just posted a call for qualified designers to work up a roundabout design for the five-way intersection - where Healdsburg Ave., Mill St. and Vine St. meet, one block south of the Plaza.

Roundabouts are failry common in European cities, notably the one that encircles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, commissioned by Napoleon. Traffic enters from several directions, but always then turns and flows to the right; drivers leave the round-about by another right turn down their street. Stop sighs may or may not be placed at street entrances to control the flow of traffic.

The roundabout traffic soluton has been controversial in Sonoma County. In Cotati, voters in November passed a measure to prohibit them (Measure U), despite their being favored by the Cotati City Council.

In Santa Rosa, a series of small roundabouts were installed in the SRJC district several years ago, in part as a means of slowing residential traffic, but were removed after failing to solve the problem.

But in Healdsburg it might be a viable solution. The City has been working on a plan to upgrade the south "gateway" to downtown over the past two years or so, and this call for submissions is the next step.

The full text of the city's Request for Statement of Qualifications (RFQ) is below.

The City of Healdsburg is seeking a qualified design firm, or team, with extensive experience and knowledge of designing roundabouts, municipal utilities (water, sewer, electric, and storm drainage), pedestrian routes, quiet zone at-grade railroad crossings, signage, landscaping and lighting that will help brand the Central Healdsburg area as a destination location. The City seeks to partner with the selected consultant during the contract scoping stage to specifically define the scope of work for the purposes for preparing plans, specifications and construction contract documents for improvements at the 5-Way Intersection of Healdsburg Avenue, Vine Street, and Mill Street (the “5-Way Intersection”), including but not limited to roundabout, utilities and lighting. Because this will be the main entryway into the City, landscaping and aesthetics will be a very important component of the final design.

All qualified firms that are interested in providing these services to the City of Healdsburg are invited to submit their Statement of Qualifications (SOQ). All SOQ’s must comply with the requirements specified in this Request for Statement of Qualifications (RFQ).

To download the SOQ please see the Current Contract Opportunities page.

Lew Sbrana February 15, 2013 at 04:00 PM
They have got to be kidding! After botching the one-way street project, how could they possibly even consider a roundabout? I agree that the south entrance to town could use some upgrading (i.e. landscaping, tearing down or refurbishing the old restaurant/hotel, etc.), but a roundabout? No thanks!
Keren Colsten February 15, 2013 at 04:15 PM
I think it is a bad idea for bikers and pedestrians.
Sharyn Sarquis February 15, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Roundabouts are great - we've encountered them on foot, on bikes, and in cars. They work. This is a perfect solution to the mess that currently exists at our southern five-way intersection.
Gary Goss February 15, 2013 at 05:04 PM
I suspect that we are too backward and fearful to tolerate an improvement. I can point out two nearby roundabouts. There is one at the south end of Fort Bragg and one at the east end of Old Hopland. And they work fine. But those are mere facts.
Wendy Dayton February 15, 2013 at 05:25 PM
a roundabout it a great solution to that intersection...
John Murphy February 15, 2013 at 05:29 PM
This would be a very good improvement assuming they could get it to work with the railroad tracks (which might become active soon with or without SMART - many signals around here are being actively improved by NCRA). The signalization routine at that intersection leads to very long waits for everyone, there are more than just the typical 2 signal phases, because there are left turn phases for two of the turn directions (at least). There is no left turn from Grove Street, a roundabout would allow you to go left from Grove onto either Mill Street or Healdsburg Ave via going around the roundabout. For cyclists this would be a big win because several of the signals do not trigger for cyclists, most notably going West on Mill which is the typical S->N bike route from Old Red to Westside Road. There is a roundabout in San Francisco which is on a heavily trafficked bike route to the train station and the cyclists navigate it fine. Pedestrians are pretty hosed in this intersection to begin with. The result could be better overall for them because this will slow traffic speeds and make navigating the intersection better. Note that slower speeds do not equal increased travel times for motorists because right now they are stuck for several light cycles. Aesthetically, the intersection is an eyesore and a roundabout could make inroads there.
Igor February 15, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Roundabouts work ONLY WHEN the exit streets are open. Has anyone seen the backup from the railroad tracks into the Plaza? What is going to happen is we build this monster ....then people cannot get off it and onto Healdsburg Ave...so we are left with the exact same problem we have now. DUH ......
Barbara Medaille February 15, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Why not give it a try? We can call it "L'Etoile Healdsburg". Maybe Bryan Tedrick could design a marvelous and dazzling sculpture for the center of the roundabout.
Barbara Klein February 15, 2013 at 06:44 PM
Having a roundabout at that intersection would not only improve traffic flow but could be made attractive, something it isn't at present. This is the first impression a visitor gets of the city . As it is it is a wonder anyone goes any further.
Michael MacKenzie February 15, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Excellent points, John Murphy - I grew up with roundabouts, or "rotaries" as we called them in Boston. Never could figure out why they weren't used here in the West. I think they work just fine; there is a learning curve (no pun intended!), and I agree that the rail line could complicate matters. But if an old sod like me can negotiate the countless roundabouts in the UK in a right-hand-drive rental, anyone can do it! Michael MacKenzie
Kathy Seisdedos February 15, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Yes, the traffic back-ups are awful in every direction BECAUSE OF the signal lights. The Roundabout would solve this by letting cars go from any street to any other street. There are also small roundabouts in the Vintana subdivision in Windsor.
Jill Plamann February 15, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Roundabouts are all over Australia. They work very well and I find them fun and attractive. No one has ever thought of a better solution for Healdsburg. Yes, it may not solve the "waiting" problem but this is what we have inherited from poor city design in the past. The idea of a sculpture is an excellent idea. Perhaps we could have submissions and choose an incredible piece that reflects the Fine Art Culture that is growing in Healdsburg. The city of Healdsburg is over-due for a fine art purchase.
Lee February 15, 2013 at 08:54 PM
While I'm in support of doing _something_ to that intersection, wouldn't a roundabout just give the ever increasing number of transients another place to lay around and panhandle? They are getting out of control in the downtown area.
Madeleine February 16, 2013 at 12:37 AM
I grew up here and yes there have been times where waiting for the light to change seems to take forever but it's just the impatient side of me. I am not against a roundabout. I would however have concerns on the traffic that backs up from the plaza. It seems you might end up with a line of cars trying to get off the roundabout onto Healdsburg Ave torwards Mathewson. Then other cars from East Mill St. wouldn't be able to even get on the roundabout.
Clint Lutz February 16, 2013 at 02:41 AM
They work very well in Petaluma near Casa Grande High School as well.
Pat warner February 16, 2013 at 03:48 AM
I use this intersection several times a day. The light is a pain. The pedestrian situation is impossible. I think anything is worth a try. And I am for a roundabout !!
Vesta Copestakes February 16, 2013 at 07:02 AM
I grew up with roundabouts back east - have traveled them recently in Loveland, Colorado where they are installed in new developments, and they are at many intersections in Bend, Oregon. Petaluma has seven, so you can try one out locally. They are an amazing way to calm traffic down, keep it moving so there's little brake dust or acceleration exhaust, and no idling exhaust. They are relatively inexpensive to build compared with traffic signals, and very inexpensive to maintain. The only challenge is getting people used to them. And at this intersection - anything is an improvement!
Michael MacKenzie February 16, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Right, Vesta - "an amazing way to calm traffic", while allowing a steady flow and distribution of traffic at a complicated junction. Plus, it could look really nice ..... Now, when it's all done, I wish the town would take a look at First and Tucker; the "morning raceway" out of the backside of the grid could use a bit of calming!
ScottRAB February 19, 2013 at 06:18 PM
The Arc D/Triumph is not a modern roundabout. If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout (UK continental roundabout), search www.k-state.edu to see pictures. And here’s another site that shows the difference between an older roundabout/rotary and a modern roundabout: http://tinyurl.com/bzf7qmg The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHzly_6lWM ). Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Search www.iihs.org for FAQs and safety facts. The safety comes from the ‘slow and go’ operation instead of the ‘stop or go fast’ way a stop light works. The smaller size of the modern roundabout is what makes them safer and keeps speeds in the 20 mph range. This makes it much easier to avoid a crash or stop for pedestrians. It also means that if a crash happens the likelihood of injury is very low. Safety is the #1 reason there are over 2,400 modern roundabouts in the US today and many more on the way. Slow and go also means less delay than a stop light or stop sign, especially the other 20 hours a day people aren’t driving to or from work. Average daily delay at a signal is around 12 seconds per car. At a modern roundabout average delay is less than five seconds.
Robert Herrick February 20, 2013 at 01:56 AM
I can't wait. It will be a blast to fly through that thing in the middle of the night in my BMW!

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