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Meetings planned on Healdsburg’s future traffic roundabout

In a tangible sign that the Healdsburg roundabout is closer to becoming reality, the city is planning a series of workshops to help explain how the traffic feature will work at one of the its major intersections.

The roundabout at the gateway to downtown is not expected to break ground until the spring of 2016. But beginning in early October and stretching over nine months the city will hold a half-dozen meetings to both answer questions and solicit input on the associated improvements to Healdsburg Avenue.

Unlike some other cities where roundabouts have been opposed, the one planned in Healdsburg is less controversial.

“There was an extensive public process and strong support for doing it,” said Jim Heid, whose Urban Green consulting firm is conducting the public outreach for the project.

“It wasn’t us force-feeding it to anyone. People came to the conclusion it was a good option for that intersection,” Councilman Tom Chambers said Friday.

The roundabout is expected to help traffic flow at the city’s tricky, five-way intersection where Healdsburg Avenue, Mill and Vine streets closely converge with the railroad tracks.

The intersection can confuse motorists, especially those who are unfamiliar with it, and can challenge pedestrians and bicyclists.

The roundabout “will be a dramatic improvement,” Chambers said. “This will move traffic through there a lot better and a lot more safely.”

Heid said roundabouts can handle more cars without the backups of traditional intersections. Vehicles move slowly, but continually, and as a result there are lower rates of fatalities and damage, he said.

Chambers said people worry about how the roundabout will work with the tracks when commuter train service is eventually restored. But he said there will be gate arms to stop traffic when a train rolls by.

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