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Published November 30th, 2016
Roundabout, New Lights will Aid in Fixing Traffic Woes
The intersection at Olympic and Reliez Station Road. Photo P. Fisher

A hot topic in Lamorinda is the "new" traffic control measure currently being studied or installed in Moraga and Lafayette: roundabouts
In Lafayette, the roundabout at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Olympic Boulevard in Lafayette is nearly complete, bringing this new traffic calming measure to the city.
New, that is, to Lafayette.
Many people claim roundabouts have proved a successful solution to traffic all over the world for many years, but it might take Lamorinda residents a while to get used to driving through their very first roundabout.
As the roundabout gets closer to completion, residents are now using it and for the most part, it seems to be handling the volume of traffic. City Engineer Tony Coe says that it is going very well. He said that more education is probably needed to get people using it correctly and says that all the cones - still necessary until construction is over - are very distracting visually as you approach. He says there will be further signage as the roundabout is completed.
In fact the city has put together an informational brochure with tips on how to navigate the intersection in a safe and orderly fashion. Hard copy brochures are readily available in the city office lobby (3675 Mt Diablo Blvd., #210) and also at the Lafayette Library, Acalanes High School and the Community Center.
Lafayette Resident John Travale would like to see the city go further. "I would highly recommend the use of multiple traffic officers with whistles keeping the flow moving through the circle." He says he has driven on roundabouts in Europe that were quite effective. "The difference: (They're) much larger."
Ali Bodden, a recent Lafayette resident, agrees. "Roundabouts work so well in Europe." She says that drivers are used to them, yield where they should, and that the flow of traffic is generally far, far better. "I think introducing local traffic to such a tiny roundabout was a terrible idea - drivers panic and slow down IN the roundabout, causing everyone to come to a stop."
Furthermore, Lafayette resident Linda Murphy says, "Although the roundabout has improved the delay at Pleasant Hill Road and Olympic, a big part of that might be simply that so many motorists are avoiding that intersection and instead are using smaller side streets designed for local residents to exit their subdivision. These smaller streets are not equipped to handle the volume of cars, causing backups on these small side streets."
Coe recognized that traffic along Reliez Station Road also backs up and says that the two sets of traffic lights which will be installed over the next few months will help remedy this.

Green Light for Traffic Lights
As part of the Olympic Boulevard and Reliez Station Road Corridor improvements, the reality of those two new traffic lights came closer at the Nov. 14 city council meeting.
The council unanimously gave authorization to issue a change order to Bay City Paving and Grading in the amount of $699,500 to install two traffic signals on Reliez Station Road - a saving to the city of $42,000 on the original bid.
The first set of lights will be at the top of the hill on Reliez Station Road by the intersection with Las Trampas Road, an area that traditionally sees very heavy traffic during the rush hours. There will be a second light at the bottom of the hill controlling traffic at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Reliez Station Road.
Andreason Drive Homeowners Association President Aaron Rosenberg spoke in favor of both sets of lights and pointed out that, with deference to his neighbors at the top of the hill, the Las Trampas light addresses safety concerns and should be done first, while the light at the foot of the hill is more an issue of efficiency. Coe replied that both lights will be worked on concurrently and that both lights will be up and operating by April, weather permitting.
The lights at Las Trampas will be timed to stay green for Reliez Station Road traffic, until triggered by vehicles from the side streets to turn red. However, Coe said that the timing could be tweaked as necessary to ensure optimal traffic flow.
The council also decided unanimously to retain the crosswalk across the east leg of Olympic Boulevard when the traffic lights are installed at that intersection.
Rosenberg, who is very much in favor of the eastern pedestrian crossing, made the point that residents from Andreasen Drive currently have to cross to take their children to the school bus stop on the north side of Reliez Station Road, beyond the trail head parking lot.
In a previous discussion Mayor Mark Mitchell had questioned the need and efficiency of the proposed crosswalk, questioning the demand for such a crossing and pointing out that it would mean pedestrians crossing twice, slowing traffic still further. However, noting the pedestrian and bike only phase of the lights which allows movements in all directions to occur simultaneously under signal protection (know as "scramble" phase), Mitchell said he could support keeping the crosswalk.
Vice mayor Mike Anderson said that it is currently a very dangerous intersection and agreed that many drivers roll right through the stop sign. He said that scramble lights, which are to be found all over the Bay Area, will enable people to go in all directions and seem to work well.

A rendering of the Pleasant Hill Road roundabout. Image provided

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