Mixed reviews for Glen Ellen's roundabout

  • Traffic drives through the new roundabout at the intersection of Arnold Drive and Agua Caliente Road West in Sonoma on Friday, September 20, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Sonoma County's latest go-around with Eurocentric driving habits has opened to mixed reviews near Glen Ellen.

"I hate it," said a woman who gave her first name as Virginia and lives near a new roundabout at Arnold Drive and Agua Caliente Road.

Jeri Willis, however, said her husband went through the roundabout and liked it.

"He said it goes smoothly," Willis said at her Don Timoteo Court home Friday.

The roundabout's debut on the well-trafficked county road has long been anticipated, and in some quarters, dreaded.

Supporters say the roundabout will ease congestion at the intersection, reduce the risk of crashes and prove better for the environment because vehicles won't be idling. Critics, however, view it as a waste of taxpayer money and possibly a greater threat to motorist safety than had the county installed a stop light at the intersection.

The roundabout is at the entrance to the Hanna Boys Center and features a one-lane traffic circle in which vehicles move counterclockwise around a center circular island, entering and exiting to the right. The motorist entering the roundabout must yield to traffic already circling.

Most motorists appeared to grasp the concept, despite the added visual distraction of crews working with heavy equipment in the roundabout's center.

The driver of a flatbed truck ferrying a half-dozen vehicles navigated the circle with no problem, as did the drivers of other large vehicles. A passenger in a pickup that went through the circle waved his arms around and around in an apparent attempt to explain the concept to the driver, who had a puzzled look on his face.

Controversy has trailed the project, which is budgeted for $2.08 million. The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission in 2011 narrowly endorsed the project in a split 5-4 vote. Neighbors also aired dissenting views at a meeting held to gather public input.

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