The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Op Ed: Everything You Need To Know About The Roundabout vs. Signals Debate

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The question of how to best manage the ever-growing amount of traffic flowing through the Ranch has been a hotly debated community issue for over a decade. Recently, the Association Board took action following a town hall-style community meeting at the Garden Club and sent a letter to the County recommending signals.

The Board's action has kindled renewed interest among Ranch residents. This is a comprehensive guide to the Roundabouts vs. Signals debate and includes all the latest facts and data.

Read more RSF Post coverage on Intersections

Here are the facts:

1. Roundabouts will infringe on private property

Installing roundabouts at each intersection would infringe on the surrounding private property significantly. According to the EIR, about half an acre in total would need to be forfeited by community members and property owners in order to accommodate roundabouts.

2. Signals will not infringe on private property

It will not require the loss of any private property in order to construct signalized intersections. The footprint of the stanchions used to hold up the signals are several square feet and bolted into a concrete base and would lie inside the County's right of way. The time required for installation or removal would be minimal.

3. Roundabouts would cost almost 4 times as much as signals

According to the EIR prepared by the County, Roundabouts are expected to cost close to $6 million whereas signals are expected to cost $1.6 million.

4. Once built, Roundabouts would not be easily changed

Because the construction of Roundabouts would be very substantial, adapting intersections to future changes in traffic patterns would be significantly more difficult and costly. As a result, the Roundabouts may need to be signalized if traffic congestion worsens.

5. Signals are adaptable to changes in traffic flow

A technology called "Adaptive Signal Control" is utilized by the traffic authority to regulate light length depending on the traffic conditions at the time. With this technology, the long-term usefulness of signals is more likely.

6. Using amber advisory lights with Roundabouts won’t be as safe as fully signalized intersections

According to the Highway Manual roundabouts may utilize amber advisory lights which only serve to slow traffic. A red light at a fully signalized intersection requires drivers to fully stop, making crossings safer for pedestrians and equestrians.

7. During construction, Roundabouts will require significant detours onto low-capacity side streets

According to the EIR, over the 18 month construction period required for Roundabouts, side streets would need to be utilized as detours to accommodate through traffic.

8. Signals will not require detours

During construction, detours onto side streets will not be required since the intersection will remain intact and construction of signals will take place on the shoulder.

9. No negative impact from existing traffic signal at Via de la Valle and Calzada del Bosque

In the last 5 years there have been 2 accidents at the signalized intersection on Via de la Valle and Calzada del Bosque.

10. The 2015 EIR identified signals as the 'environmentally superior alternative'

According to the Environmental Impact Report that was organized by the County, “Signalized Intersections Alternative would be the environmentally superior alternative.”

11. Roundabouts will require significantly more time to approve, fund, and install than Signals

It will take several years for the County to secure the requisite $6 million in funding and because of the easement requirements, Roundabouts are highly prone to legal challenges which will delay them further. Construction of Roundabouts has been estimated to take 18 months. Signals will need 1-2 years to procure enough funding for the $1.6 project and can be constructed within several months.