New roundabouts to be tested by drivers and winter | SierraSun.com

New roundabouts to be tested by drivers and winter

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunThe finishing touches are being put on the two new roundabouts in Truckee.

Work on the sidewalks and retaining walls at Truckee’s two new roundabouts is being finished up before winter brings two of the largest tests for the new traffic features ” snow and skier traffic.

Right now the hesitancy of drivers as they enter the traffic circles mirrors the attitudes of many locals about the usefulness of the intersections. Many, including town officials, are waiting to see how the roundabouts will handle the heavy traffic and inclement weather that is just around the corner.

“When Interstate 80 closes I do not know how that is going to help with congestion in town, because you are just going to have cars going in circles,” said Kerry Sheedy, owner of the Truckee Bagel Co. off of Deerfield Drive, just south of the southern roundabout.

In Sheedy’s bagel shop, opinions on the new roundabouts often dominate conversation both among employees and customers, he said. He thinks that the roundabouts will help traffic flow better as it exits Interstate 80, but he expects motorists to be confused until they get used to the new traffic flow.

“I can just picture people in huge SUVs going around in circles,” Sheedy said.

Dan Wilkins, Truckee’s public works director, said he is also curious to see how the roundabouts will function during the winter. But what he has seen so far this fall has given him reason to be optimistic, he said.

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“My opinion is the local drivers here in Truckee have experience with the current roundabout … they will get it figured out and dialed in,” Wilkins said.

So far the Truckee Police Department has not recorded any accidents in the roundabouts, said Truckee Police Lt. Jeff Nichols.

“I think everyone is going nice and slow right now,” Nichols said.

Approximately 30,000 vehicles are expected to pass through the new $4.5 million dollar traffic circles in an average summer day, said Wilkins. The Town of Truckee will end up paying approximately $3 million for the project, with the rest of the money coming from state and county funds. The project has met its budget so far, according to Wilkins.

Construction crews will place soil and boulders in the middle sections of the roundabouts this season, but they will not be fully landscaped until next year, Wilkins said.

Construction crews may be out working on the retaining walls, sidewalks and other small projects until mid-November, according to town officials.

Meanwhile, drivers are entering the new roundabouts slowly, as everyone gets used to how vehicle traffic moves through the intersection. The design of the intersections should prevent any major accidents, Wilkins said.

“The fact that the geometry of the roundabouts force you to drive slowly, there is less chance for bad accidents,” he said.

The design has kept traffic moving well despite the tentative motorists, he said.

“I’ve seen some of the driver confusion,” Wilkins said. “What I haven’t seen are accidents associated with the operation of the roundabouts.”