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Healdsburg embracing roundabout to ease traffic flow

  • Healdsburg city councilman Tom Chambers was on the committee that recommended a roundabout at the five-way intersection of Healdsburg Avenue, Mill Street and Vine Street. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

Healdsburg is moving ahead with a traffic roundabout at a key intersection, but without the opposition the circular intersections have engendered in some towns.

The $2.4 million roundabout planned for a five-way intersection south of Healdsburg Plaza is seen as way to reduce congestion, make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists and help connect the downtown to an adjacent industrial area ripe for redevelopment.

It's viewed as a more efficient way to handle traffic at the busy and problematic crossroads of Healdsburg Avenue, the railroad tracks, Mill and Vine Streets.

"There were questions initially, but people worked their way around it," City Councilman Tom Chambers said Tuesday of the roundabout design.

The idea gained momentum in a series of workshops and public meetings held to establish guidelines for public infrastructure and private investment in the central Healdsburg Avenue and train depot area.

"There was a lot of enthusiasm about it," said Jerry Eddinger, a planning commissioner and former mayor.

"It will allow you cross the street without taking your life in your hands," he said. "The way it is now, there are so many damn arrows going in different directions."

A roundabout will be less dangerous than the current five-way intersection, "which isn't very intuitive; It's not symmetrical," said Ray Holley, a publicist and newspaper columnist who along with Eddinger and Chambers was on a citizens' committee that helped establish a vision for the Central Healdsburg area.

"It's common for people to get out in the middle of the intersection, get confused and go the wrong way. There are accidents out there on a regular basis," Holley said.

Roundabouts in recent years have sparked strong opposition in some Sonoma County communities, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Sonoma Valley. Cotati voters last year permanently banned the traffic circles.

But in Healdsburg, the view is different. Supporters say that besides making it easier to navigate the intersection, a roundabout -- along with landscaping, lighting and undergrounding of utilities -- is a visual enhancement. City officials say it will help brand the Central Healdsburg area as a "destination location."

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