Placerville roundabout foes submit signatures calling for November ballot measure

Published: Thursday, May. 15, 2014 - 6:07 pm

A group of Placerville residents opposed to traffic circles, or roundabouts, say they have submitted enough signatures to qualify a measure for the November ballot that would require a public vote on construction of all roundabouts proposed in the city.

City Clerk Susan Zito said representatives of Friends of Historic Hangtown delivered the petitions to City Hall about 11 a.m. Thursday, and Zito delivered them to the El Dorado County Elections Department to verify the signatures. She said 533 signatures were required and a partial count showed at least 662 signatures. County elections officials must check to make sure the signatures are valid. Zito said the county has 30 business days to complete the verification process.

The initiative was triggered by city officials’ proposal to build a roundabout at Main Street and Cedar Ravine, eliminating stop signs. They argue that the roundabout would increase the street’s vehicle capacity, provide traffic-calming effects and improve pedestrian safety.

Opponents include business owners concerned that the project would result in the loss of some parking spaces in a public parking lot near the intersection. Other residents argue that a roundabout is not consistent with the historic character of the town, founded during the Gold Rush.

“The opposition is tremendous,” said Kirk Callan Smith, who supports the initiative.

Smith said the proposed roundabout “is widely hated because of the destruction to the landscape of this important historical area.”

In addition to the loss of parking spaces, the project would involve moving the Druid Monument.

“So the merchants don’t like it and the people in this town who love the history of this place … don’t like it,” Smith said. “Could you imagine having San Francisco getting rid of Lombard Street because they think it is inefficient?”

Following a lawsuit filed by roundabout opponents, a judge determined that the city must prepare an environmental impact report before proceeding with the proposed Main Street-Cedar Ravine roundabout. The report will look at several options, including a roundabout, traffic signals, stop signs, three- and four-way intersections, said City Manager Cleve Morris. The environmental report likely will be completed in late fall or early winter, after the November election.

Of greater concern, Morris said, is the effect passage of the proposed ballot measure might have on the western Placerville interchanges project, which proposes roundabouts on Placerville Drive and Forni Road at the eastbound and westbound offramps from Highway 50. The state Department of Transportation must approve the project design, and it is unclear what effect a ban on roundabouts within the city might have on funding if the state determined roundabouts were the best option, he said.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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