Going around in circles isn’t all bad
Love them or hate them, two more roundabouts will soon roll into Truckee. Last week the Truckee Town Council approved a bid to construct the roundabouts for the Interstate 80-Highway 89 south interchange.These new roundabouts will be much larger than their lone counterpart in Truckee on Donner Pass Road near Brickelltown. With two lanes each and their relationship to I-80, these roundabouts will be serious, and we believe successful, undertakings. Our advice to doubters? Don’t be afraid. Roundabouts as large or larger than the ones proposed for Truckee are working just fine in Santa Barbara, Long Beach, Vail, Colo., more than a few places in the Northeast and all over Europe.While the cost of a traditional traffic light intersection at the 89 south-I-80 interchange versus the roundabouts is great – $750,000 to $3.5 million – there’s more to the numbers than meets the eye.Traffic signals will work adequately in the short term, but factoring in the inevitable growth our area will experience, they will have to be replaced and the intersections realigned when the amount of time motorists have to wait becomes unacceptable. In engineer speak, that’s when the level of service reaches failure.Everybody knows what a good storm and several thousand skiers headed to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows can do to the I-80 offramp at Highway 89 south. With a roundabout keeping traffic flowing, nobody should have to worry about a string of cars backing up onto the interstate.If signals are installed now, it’s likely we will all have to spend more money and endure more road construction in the future to, quite possibly, build a set of roundabouts to alleviate congestion.And if some Truckee residents can’t deal with roundabouts, they should know the concept isn’t just now being foisted upon them. As part of the General Plan update process the town, in working with the community, has essentially decided that roundabouts are the future.A guiding principle for the General Plan is that the town will strive to have no traffic signals in Truckee. Roundabouts will be installed instead of signals where it is physically possible and where they will achieve the same or better level of service as a signal – even if the roundabout is more expensive. That is what’s going to be done at I-80 and Highway 89 south.So even though we’ll be going around in circles, we’ll be heading into the future in the right direction.