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Monterey County’s principal traffic agency is on the verge of trying to improve traffic conditions on Highway 68, also known as the Monterey-Salinas Highway, in a roundabout way. Literally.

Thursday night, three transportation officials made a presentation in support of replacing all the traffic lights on Highway 68 between Blanco Road in Salinas and the Monterey Airport with roundabouts, also known as traffic circles. The panelists were Debbie Hale, executive director of the Transportation Agency of Monterey; Grant Leonard, a TAMC planner and the point man on this project; and Rich Deal, traffic engineer for the city of Monterey. Mike DeLapa, executive director of LandWatch, was the moderator. They spoke to a lively group of about 75 residents who braved the humidity and Route 68 rush-hour traffic to attend the meeting at San Benancio Middle School.

While informational, this presentation was basically a hard sell of roundabouts, giving very short shrift to any other options. It may be that roundabouts are safer than traffic lights, as alleged. And it may be that roundabouts will improve the flow of traffic on Highway 68, although crawling along at 20 mph or less through the circles may be more of a slow drip than a flow. But for those of us who were previously force fed traffic lights all along this 15-mile “corridor” (the term used by the planner) because they would make the highway safer, allow a bit of skepticism about this “flavor of the month” safety improvement.

Whatever is decided, the money will come from voter-approved Measure X. Addressing existing congestion on 68 is the No. 1 priority for use of that money. The TAMC board is scheduled to vote on the roundabout plan this month, starting a process of construction design, right-of-way acquisition and environmental review that could take more than three years to complete before actual roadwork could begin.

Deal gave a lengthy description of the roundabout that is just being completed on Holman Highway (Highway 68 west), next to Highway 1 and the entrance to Pebble Beach. As a former designer of freeways, Deal said he much preferred designing a roadway that is environmentally friendly. He showed a diagram of the new roundabout, which includes a bike/pedestrian path over Highway 1, sparing bikers and walkers the nightmare of vying with cars and trucks in the roundabout. When asked why there was only one roundabout on this part of Highway 68, Deal said the money was limited. He said additional roundabouts are being proposed to replace the light at Community Hospital and the light where Highway 68 enters Pacific Grove.

Are there options other than roundabouts? Yes. Highway 68 can remain as is, an option that some in the audience favored. Or there could be a bypass at Corral de Tierra and San Benancio roads, which would allow traffic from these two busy side roads to enter and exit 68 without traffic lights stopping the flow of traffic.

This is an option suggested by Mike Weaver of the Highway 68 Coalition. It has been an option since the Las Palmas development was built. As part of the Highway 68 traffic mitigation for that project 19 years ago, money was given to the county to buy 11-plus acres next to the highway just north of the Corral de Tierra stoplight. This acreage makes the building of the bypass possible – no more land needs to be purchased. However, TAMC’s Leonard said the bypass alone would cost $25 million. In contrast, he put a $50 million pricetag on all the proposed Highway 68 roundabouts.

Another option is “adaptive signals,” that is, making the Highway 68 signals talk to each other, so that the green lights can be synchronized. This would also speed the flow of traffic. However, according to Leonard, this option costs at least $34 million, and it has been apparently rejected because of the cost.

How many roundabouts would be built? The intent is to place them on 68 at Josselyn Canyon Road, Olmstead Road, State Route 218, York, Pasadera, Laureles Grade, Corral de Tierra, San Benancio, “New Torero” and Blanco. Leonard said there may also be a roundabout at the Ragsdale intersection. The “New Torero” designation is for the expected improvements to the Torero intersection, at the Toro Park subdivision, which will be funded by the money from the developers of Ferrini Ranch. Leonard said that because the Ferrini Ranch development has been approved by the Board of Supervisors, and even though it is in litigation, TAMC must factor in the money the developer has to pay to mitigate the development’s traffic impact. TAMC has not played an active role in limiting development along Route 68, despite the fact that fewer vehicles using the road on a daily basis would make the highway safer.

The panelists observed that the roundabouts would not increase the capacity of Highway 68, which they acknowledged is used by far too many vehicles. Its design capacity is 16,000 vehicles per day, and currently it accommodates between 25,000 and 32,000. The primary reason to build roundabouts is that they are expected reduce accidents by keeping traffic moving. One study has shown that travel time on the entire route at peak hours would be reduced by approximately 5 minutes if the roundabouts replace the stoplights.

One person who spoke up is an avid biker who likes to bike “the loop,” the roadway that loops away from the highway San Benancio to Corral de Tierra. He asked how the roundabouts would affect bicyclists, who now can ride on the shoulders of Highway 68. If the roundabouts were built at both San Benancio and Corral, bicyclists would have to navigate the traffic circles while hoping not to get rear-ended by road-raged drivers. The bicyclist suggested a frontage road but the idea was met with a shrug. Clearly, some users of Highway 68 have not been given much consideration in this proposed plan for roundabouts. On the other hand, drivers of 18-wheelers will be happy to learn that their rigs will still be welcome on this scenic highway.

For those who remember when Route 68 was a two-lane road connecting Salinas and Monterey, be advised that TAMC also plans to widen Route 68 to two lanes in each direction between the airport and York Road, as well as between Toro Park and Corral De Tierra. Thus, our scenic highway will become a scenic freeway for the most part, and there will still be a few places for drivers to come roaring up in the right lane to cut in front of you as you enter one of the remaining parts of the two-lane highway. That widening of Route 68 has a price tag of $107 million.

There is a bright spot in all of this. The state has become very interested in protecting wildlife by building corridors for them to safely get over or under highways, so that they can still wander over their entire habitat. We were informed that even if the roundabouts are not built, and even if the widening is not done, the state will help improve the “connectivity” for wildlife at 10 locations along Route 68. The state would help pay for the expansion of drain pipes to make them big enough for deer and other wildlife to get through, so they can go from one side of Route 68 to the other.

According to Hale and Leonard, this plan will be presented to the TAMC board at its August meeting for approval. Once approved, the plan is sent to the state Department of Transportation for its review and comments. But since the money for the roundabouts will be taken from the Measure X taxes, a local source, the state will not be required to give its approval. Once TAMC gives the OK, it can follow the state’s suggestions or not. The public can write comments on TAMC’s website at this time, as well as after the plan comes back to the county after the state’s review.

How many roundabouts would be built at one time? No one knows for sure. Also, no one at TAMC knows how long it would take to build all the projected roundabouts. And no one knows how the construction process itself would hurt traffic flow on an already challenged roadway. The planners expect there would be more traffic on Imjin Road, which also connects Marina to the Salinas Valley.

One wonders what it would take to reduce the carbon footprint on Highway 68 –- to build light rail connecting Salinas and Monterey and to run electric buses for employees, as Silicon Valley employers do. Yes, it would take a lot of money. It would require a bolder view of the future than replacing traffic lights with traffic roundabouts. It would require embracing measures that actually reduce the number of gas-guzzling cars and trucks on Route 68, thereby reducing pollution, improving safety, and eliminating some of the worst road-rage drivers in the county.

My hope is that someday we will return to the San Benancio School and discuss our disappointment with the roundabout plan as we review TAMC’s plans for reducing the vehicles being driven daily on this beleaguered scenic highway.

Ann Hill is a retired lawyer who lives near Highway 68.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Brian Ackerman August 6, 2017, 9:27 am

    I have, in my life, driven on roads in several countries and states that have embraced roundabouts. In every case, traffic that would otherwise be horribly congested moves smoothly through. In the UK, nearly every intersection has a roundabout. No stop signs, no signaling lights.

    In Marina, the two roundabouts on Reservation Road have greatly improved the flow of traffic. The new roundabout on the Hollman Highway at Highway 1, though not yet finished has already relieved congestion going to and from CHOMP. If Caltrans built a roundabout in Moss Landing at Dolan and Moss Landing Roads, the near daily carnage of cars and trucks failing to successfully cross two lanes of high-speed traffic on One would be eliminated. I cross that intersection twice daily and it can be hair raising.

    This is not to say that other options, like bypasses, don’t work and, in some circumstances may be the better option. But modern roundabouts, properly designed and executed have demonstrated around the world enhance safety and improve traffic flows.

    • Jeanne Turner August 6, 2017, 10:02 pm

      The roundabout near CHOMP works great for traffic exiting Highway 1 heading south. They can make the right turn toward CHOMP and PG, drive straight ahead to PB or hop onto the roundabout to head toward Aguajito Road. Those people coming from the north have direct access to the roundabout and they just keep coming. I am usually one of those people but had occasion to be coming from Pacific Grove last Friday afternoon. With nothing to stop the steady flow of traffic coming from the north I could not enter the roundabout, just to go south on Highway 1 for a LONG time. Other roundabouts I have experienced allow drivers equal access to the roundabout whereas that one does not. It is not a true roundabout.

      • Julie Engell August 7, 2017, 8:09 am

        I agree. If anything, I think traffic flow out of Pacific Grove has slowed, and I think it may be because the new roundabout isn’t like any other roundabout I’ve ever seen. It’s that ability for drivers heading south to “hop” right through the roundabout to enter Pebble Beach that puzzles me. Ever since the thing began taking shape, I thought surely they would eventually re-route the traffic to flow around. But nope, traffic exiting Highway 1 heading south goes across the roundabout rather than around it. To my way of thinking, that makes it a circular intersection with no stop signs, not a true roundabout.

        I think transitioning to roundabouts is worth serious consideration, especially if it means we can avoid the fiscal and environmental costs of perpetually widening our roads. But I do think they should be designed to protect and encourage other modes of transportation. Another wrinkle is that roundabouts prevent traffic from stopping, so drivers at intersections beyond the roundabouts have more difficulty entering the roadway because there are fewer, if any, breaks in traffic. If TAMC plans to roundabout the entire 68 corridor, I hope they have a road plan and funding to get people from their private roads and driveways to the closest roundabout so they can get on the road during high traffic. Is that part of the funding calculation?

        Can development mitigation fees charged for a “fair share” of say, adding turn lanes at specific intersections or adding additional traffic lanes along stretches of road, simply be converted to another use? Maybe they can, since mitigations often don’t materialize anyway. But it would be interesting to know, especially if building roundabouts is cheaper than other alternatives. I can just see all the developers lining up at TAMC’s door demanding partial refunds for their mitigation fees because the fix is cheaper than originally thought. Or maybe they’d go for complete refunds, since nothing they “bought” is being built.

        Of course, when the fix costs way more than anticipated (as it usually does), the public can’t go back to the developers and demand they pay more for their “fair share.” It’s a crazy system. We allow developers to construct what we don’t need instead of what we do need. We charge fees to theoretically fix the problems that creates. Somehow we never learn that the fix often ends up being too expensive to implement anyway.

  • Beverly Bean August 6, 2017, 9:43 am

    Anyone who expects to reduce the number of cars on Hiway 68 is dreaming…with the recent approvals of Ferrini Ranch and Corral de Tierra Shopping Center, the number of cars will increase even more. Approving development without supporting infrastructure over the past 40 years has resulted in the gridlock we now have on 68.

    Options are limited, and for the amount of money available, the roundabouts will at least make the drive safer (not faster) for cars and wildlife. This may be the best we can hope for as the Board of Supervisors continues to approve development on the 68 corridor.

  • Howard Scherr August 6, 2017, 10:29 am

    One point that hasn’t been brought up is a simple way to make roundabouts more efficient–driver education. I live in Marina, where we have three new roundabouts–and the lack of signaling by drivers already in the roundabout means drivers entering the roundabout have to come to a complete stop until the oncoming traffic exits. This delay can be avoided if only drivers would get into the habit of using turn signals to signal their intentions, either to continue on through the circle to turn onto a side street (in which case the oncoming car must yield), or to exit the circle, in which case the incoming car can enter safely without stopping.
    But it all depends upon drivers being educated to use the roundabouts the way they’re intended. Some sort of public education campaign would be useful. I was ignorant of the proper way to navigate a roundabout when the ones in Marina opened, and helpful suggestions from a neighbor on social media made the difference. Knowledge is power!

    • Homerun August 13, 2017, 10:23 am

      I think they will need to have a police presence to ticket and educate those drivers at periodic times. However, signs before you enter the roundabout should warn drivers what they should be expected to do.

  • Trish August 6, 2017, 10:35 am

    Roundabouts or “glorietas” or traffic circles, no matter what you call them, they are a good idea, in my opinion. But they do not come close to solving the underlying issue: a serious lack of affordable housing for the low income workers who support our entire economy, from farm to table.

    When will TAMC get serious about public transportation desperately needed between Salinas-Peninsula and Salinas-Bay area? When will some of that former Fort Ord land be used to build affordable housing to ease the crisis of homelessness, mobile homelessness and crowding of 20+ individuals into tiny apartments?

    Affordable housing on the peninsula will greatly ease the traffic problems as the low-paid hospitality workers won’t need to commute from east-side Salinas to the peninsula.

    How about a bike trail from Salinas to Monterey? Not the extremely dangerous bike lanes currently in place. Shoot – if we had any vision for the future we would be finding a way to put a bike trail along the Salinas River to connect South County to the coast and promote eco-tourism: biking and wine tasting, then sell the hell out of it around the world.

    I’m constantly shaking my head in disbelief at all the money – hundreds of millions! – being spent around Monterey County and so very little of it – a pittance – used to address the underlying problem: lack of affordable (and I mean affordable to someone who grosses less than 30K per year) that rents out at 30% of gross income.

    We have shot ourselves in the foot by failing to provide the small homes and apartments desperately needed by the majority of residents in our country. How will our crops get picked and our tourists get pampered if minimum wage workers can’t live here?

    The traffic issue is simply a symptom of the sad lack of vision and planning from the county of Monterey and the communities in the Monterey Bay region. I say Housing First!

  • Janet Brennan August 6, 2017, 10:54 am

    Ann Hill references TAMC’s plan to widen parts of Highway 68. I’m not sure where this information comes from. It is not included in the projects to be developed with Measure X funds, and there sure isn’t $107 million available from other sources to pay for such a project. Regarding reducing our carbon foot print, roundabout reduce vehicles emissions significantly. Estimates for green house gas emission reductions vary, but a reasonable number is a reduction of at least 20%.

    • Royal Calkins August 6, 2017, 7:10 pm

      Janet, I may be mistaken, but I believe I heard Grant Leonard say that they are considering widening 68 in at least two locations.

      • Janet Brennan August 7, 2017, 7:55 am

        That was one of the alternatives not recommended.

      • Debbie Hale August 7, 2017, 11:48 am

        To clarify, the recommendation is to study widening between Corral de Tierra and San Benancio to avoid necking down traffic to one lane inbetween the proposed two-lane roundabouts. The second location reflects the approved Ferrini Ranch mitigation that widens Highway 68 between the existing 4-lane section to “new Torero” (east of the existing Torero entryway). If for some reason that project approval changes, then that area would likely reflect just a roundabout at Torero or new Torero.

  • David Erickson August 6, 2017, 11:21 am

    I don’t doubt that roundabouts would slightly improve traffic end to end on highway 68, but bringing 4 lanes of traffic into the San Benancio and Corrale de Tierra roundabouts could be a recipe for disaster for bicyclists and pedestrians. Bicyclists would need to navigate through or into 4 traffic streams when traveling from San Benancio to Corrale. Studies have shown that the most dangerous conditions for bicyclists in roundabouts come when the roundabout is two lanes or more, like the ones being designed for highway 68.

    There are solutions that have been considered in the past, such as the Corrale de Tierra bypass, which would bring highway 68 through what is now the Fort Ord Monument, or the construction of a frontage road between San Benancio and Corrale de Tierra. Both would require funds to acquire the right-of-way. Either way, it would be a huge benefit to the residents of San Benancio and Corrale de Tierra, helping to unite both communities by removing through traffic from the connecting roadway. It would also speed and simplify the traffic flow on highway 68, because the San Benancio roundabout could be eliminated.

    I don’t believe that the TAMC study included measuring the traffic flow between San Benancio and Corrale, or projecting how that flow will increase once the Corrale shopping center opens, or what the effect on highway 68 traffic would be if that flow was moved to a frontage road, so I hope that TAMC will conduct such a study and reconsider the cost/benefit of the bypass or frontage road options.

  • Michael D. DeLapa August 6, 2017, 11:47 am

    Short answer to the question: from what we currently know, yes, roundabouts are the best solution, given goals of safety improvement, traffic reduction, and wildlife protection, as well as budget constraints. Many good arguments for roundabouts, but even better data and transportation models. It’s always worth evaluating alternatives, but hard to understand uncritical promotion of alternatives that are clearly either unaffordable or unsupported by data. Extremely helpful, however, to have public input and concerns so that TAMC can address them moving forward. http://www.montereyherald.com/opinion/20170610/matthew-sundt-roundabouts-are-needed-on-monterey-salinas-highway

  • Craig Malin August 6, 2017, 12:50 pm

    Roundabouts rule.

    Visit Carmel (the Indiana one) if you have any doubt.

    • bill hood August 6, 2017, 5:19 pm

      Thanks – that’s where I grew up. It’s pronounced “Car’-mul”.

      • Eric Petersen August 6, 2017, 7:13 pm

        Or many other places… My cousin gave my daughter and me a tour of the roundabouts in Grand Junction Colorado when we visited. Then he moved to Bend Oregon and gave Monica and me a tour of the roundabouts.

        And I lived in Germany for over two years, they were many and they worked very well!

  • Helga Fellay August 6, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Re the following paragraph: “Another option is “adaptive signals,” that is, making the Highway 68 signals talk to each other, so that the green lights can be synchronized. This would also speed the flow of traffic. However, according to Leonard, this option costs at least $34 million, and it has been apparently rejected because of the cost.” I have lived in Denver for a number of years in the past, and there is one major thoroughfare which cuts diagonally through this entire big city which is laid out on a grid. It has adaptive signals and, if you were lucky (which actually happened quite often), one could drive from one end of this big city to the other all on green lights, without having to stop at all. In order to achieve this, all cars would have to drive at a certain speed (I think I recall it was a couple of miles above the speed limit). It’s not that hard to figure it out. It didn’t work perfectly if there were drivers who would choose a slower speed or, on occasion, during peak rush hour traffic. But even then one usually still made about 80% of the green lights. It’s definitely worth it in the long run.

    • Trish August 7, 2017, 5:09 am

      Phoenix has synchronized traffic lights and they work great! Best traffic solution ever and I’ve always wondered why we don’t do it here.

      • david fairhurst August 7, 2017, 9:55 am

        Los Angeles too. If you drive the speed limit and in “sync” with the lights you can drive from the far end of the San Fernado Valley to downtown LA without stopping (beating the congested freeway). Problem is most people don’t realize how it works and race (above the speed limit) to the next light slamming on their brakes which causes the cars behind them to apply their breaks and the “rubber band” effect backup and traffic flow.
        Nice story, wonderful disscussion. I do wonder why the entire road way isn’t 4 lanes. Also, could the “wildlife” corridors (tunnels under the highway) be made large enough for bikes? I like the idea of dedicated bike trails trails, but know that it is not commuter traffic but recreation, but still, it should be safe and encouraged and is a huge asset to Monterey County.
        Why not “fly-overs” like at Carmel Valley Road and Roberson Canyon? An attractive low impact freeway overpass. A frontage road also sounds like a good idea connecting Corral de T and San Ban, especially with a small shopping center going in Corral so people (and foot/bike traffic) from San Ban wouldn’t have to risk traveling what really has become a freeway, Hwy 68.
        A light rail between Monterey and Salinas would be a wonderful thing but I wonder how many would use it. Seems like everyone wants public transportation to get the other guy off the road.
        There is also a “round about” in Astoria Oregon with three connecting major highways. It seems to work well with two traffic lanes and one merging lane, that is the 3rd lane goes only to the next exit along with the middle lane being a “choice”. However there are lots of “close calls”.
        Sorry to hear that Hwy 68 isn’t a true “round about” and is still flawed after all that expenditure of funds. Those kind of things don’t encourage trust for the next project.

  • bob bressan August 6, 2017, 2:37 pm

    Perhaps formulating the problem properly would aid in determining a solution. Throughput is the issue, not safety. 68 isn’t on anybody’s list of the states most dangerous highways. Any solution that does not address throughput does not address the problem. I don’t see where traffic circles increase throughput. All this does is make the trips take longer.

    I have difficulty believing that the software and hardware needed to implement “adaptive signals” costs more than the cost of building traffic circles at all the traffic lights in 68. The US dept of transportation estimates the cost at $6000 – $60,000 per intersection. That is a long way from $34 million. We need to see where that number comes from.


    • david fairhurst August 7, 2017, 10:07 am

      Me too! I also wondered why they didn’t “snyc” the lights from the start when they started putting the lights in to begin with. The numbers sound like TMAC has already decided what they are going to do.
      I think 4 lanes the entire way and by-passes would increase flow, be the safest solution, decrease time, best for the envrionment (less cars idling in traffic), short frontage roads could be built and an adjacent, but seperate bike lane could be attached too.

    • Homerun August 13, 2017, 11:26 am

      In my opinion I think TAMC probably won’t get much funding if the solution came down to adjusting stop lights. $34 million is pretty ridiculous and almost seems like an attempt to even prevent an attempt for review. I also can’t believe that Caltran or other traffic systems have algorithms to run these tests to see how the flow would work based on the daily traffic flow. I think TAMC is shooting for the big shovel ready projects to drag this out for years to keep them funded.

  • chris mack August 6, 2017, 4:25 pm

    What I got from the presentation is roundabouts will reduce if not eliminate the start and stop traffic model which is so frustrating and should give one the ability to gage with better accuracy the travel time. My encounters with roundabouts have all been encouraging and seem to create a continuous moving traffic flow where one didn’t exist before. Take a trip to Bend Or. where the city is covered with these circles. Besides we will get rid of those visual eyesores, the traffic signal and use less electricity to boot.

  • Jean August 6, 2017, 5:55 pm

    Was there any analysis / discussion of the incremental traffic from special events at Laguna Seca or the Peninsula?
    Visitors are unlikely to take a bus to reduce traffic along Hwy 68 if they’ve driven from the Bay Area or Los Angeles. Special events often make traffic on 68, 1 and 101 a real nightmare; what is TAMC proposing to deal with that?

  • Dan Miller August 6, 2017, 6:45 pm

    Well if roundabouts are the answer to all traffic congestion then let’s put them in New Monterey the length of Lighthouse. The concept of one at the Highway 68 entrance to PG is insane. Having lived in PG it has never been a problem and likely never will be. Anyone who says the new roundabout at CHOMP is some wonderful example of how well they work has not driven from PG to Carmel lately. Traffic now backs up into PG and people trying to avoid the roundabout back up traffic going into Skyline Forest. Now we have to build a roundabout for the problem caused by the roundabout in that people coming out of the Carmel Professional Center now can’t turn left. They have to turn right go up into CHOMP and hang a U-turn and go back the way they came. I came out of there one day recently and waited for 100 cars until I forced my way out. If Rich Deal is such a traffic wizard why can’t he do anything that works on the Lighthouse, Foam, Hawthorne corridor? The lights are in no way synched and gridlock is common. My guess is he never even gets this side of the tunnel so he doesn’t have to deal with it. When I was on the PG city council I voted for measure X to be on the ballot. That was used as “unanimous support” which it wasn’t. I just thought people should have a chance to vote on it. Seeing the waste that is going on I will never support such an effort in the foreseeable future. What a waste of taxpayer money.

  • Helga Fellay August 6, 2017, 8:24 pm

    While roundabouts in general are a wonderful solution, I agree with Dan Miller that the CHOMP roundabout was not well designed. Going from Carmel to PG is ok, but coming back from PG to Carmel is not. Traffic is backed up all the way to CHOMP or beyond, and the PB entrance and the Hwy 1 South entrance are so close together it is a bit confusing and requires a strange wiggle that shouldn’t be there. This is the first time I have been caught in a long traffic backup before entering a roundabout. The fact that folks leaving the Professional Center have to turn right and make a u-turn at CHOMP is insane, especially during shift changes which happen 4 times at day at CHOMP (different times for medical and administrative staff).

    • Debbie Hale, TAMC Executive Director August 6, 2017, 9:49 pm

      Just a heads up that the Holman Highway roundabout doesn’t have all the lanes open, which is why the back up still occurs when coming from Pacific Grove. When all lanes are open, a separate lane will take the traffic directly to Pebble Beach, and there will be two lanes from Pacific Grove to Highway 1 northbound. Give it a chance for all movements to be open, which will happen before car week.

      • Helga Fellay August 7, 2017, 12:15 pm

        Thank you for this information, Debbie Hale. It came just after I had resolved that from now on, when driving from PG to Carmel, I would take the long way home via Lighthouse/Pacific/Munras to Hwy 1 instead of Holman Highway in order to avoid the Roundabout. I am greatly relieved to find that there is hope for the future. Is there any way to know when all the lanes will be opened, including the separate lane to PB?

  • karl August 6, 2017, 8:25 pm

    Trish, Helga and Dan…all correct in their thinking. Trish…you are correct in your analysis regarding affordable housing, and the subsequent spin-off issues that are most likely a serious root of the traffic problem. Having said that…your thoughts and a dime (now a couple of bucks) will get you a cup of coffee. Nobody is going to go there. Helga, synchronized lights are clearly an excellent option. Just try the 3 mile Esplanade in Chico, where the first green light in the series will eventually lead you to a smooth, non-stop ride to your destination. A 34 million dollar “quote” needs a second opinion. The best way to kill a good idea is to have an “official” throw a ridiculous amount of money at it to put it to rest. Dan raises an excellent point regarding the 68 Highway 1 roundabout. The thing is not built with the interest of those going west from the Medical Center near the hub, and releasing traffic from 68 South to Carmel. Roundabouts are here to stay. Better get used to them. The trick is to gather input from multiple sources prior to construction, and vet them for equal and fluid access for all who need to use them.

  • Debbie Hale, TAMC Executive Director August 6, 2017, 9:42 pm

    Thank you again to LandWatch for holding the forum, and to everyone who turned out. We appreciate your time and thoughtful input. There is a lot of data behind our TAMC study and its conclusion that a corridor of roundabouts will provide the most cost-effective way to improve safety, reduce traffic delays, and do so in a manner that preserves the scenic nature of the corridor. For more details, and the final report (which will be posted soon), visit our project website at http://www.sr68sceniccorridorstudy.com.

  • Jeanne Turner August 6, 2017, 10:20 pm

    I rest my case.

  • Dan Turner August 6, 2017, 10:44 pm

    There is no money for affordable (used to be called “public”) housing. There is no money for mass transit light-rail systems, either intra or inter-city . (These used to be called trolleys in intra-city areas a hundred years ago.) There isn’t even money for a 4-lane freeway-type highway.
    The reasons that there is no money for any of these very necessary and worth-while projects is that, following the prescriptions of neo-liberalism (Reaganism, Thatcherism) taxes have been reduced drastically for the wealthy over the last 35 years and tax breaks have been given to large, profitable corporations that have resulted in both the state and the federal governments having much less revenue than they had 40 years ago. Add to that the fact that expenditures for armaments always come first – 700 billion to a trillion dollars a year (depending on what you add in and, please, don’t call it “defense”) – and there will never be any money for low or middle-income housing or mass transit.
    Unless, of course, we all start saying – loudly and at every opportunity – that we want to change our priorities and stop spending so many hundreds of billions on armaments and start spending it on housing and mass transit. You can throw in free college and single-payer health care, too.
    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen because 99% of Americans believe that if we don’t kill them (Muslims) over there, we’ll have to kill them here and, also, that the Russians are our enemy and we have to prepare for war with them.
    So, good luck w/Hwy. 68!

  • M. Hill August 7, 2017, 7:55 am

    I have had the misfortune of trying to enter a roundabout when cars already in do not slow for those attempting to enter. Grand Junction, Co and Bend, Or may have well functioning roundabouts, but doubtful they move anywhere near the traffic Hwy 68 does.
    As far as the new roundabout at Hwy 1/ Homan Hwy, creating a right turn lane from Hwy 1 to Holman Hwy as it is now, should have been done years ago.
    Implementing a new entrance to Toro Park Estates, closing current Torero, creates gridlock in the neighborhood of almost 500 homes to afford the builder his desired entry point to Ferrini Ranch, allowing future residents of the estimate 80 homes, prime entrance to Hwy 68.
    No left turn on Torero during morning rush hour from Hwy 68 eastbound would have helped move traffic. The Portola exit is not that much further; slow moving westbound traffic would not have stopped to allow the vehicles to turn into Torero from Hwy 68 eastbound. The bypass road actually makes the most sense and perhaps the least disruptive for current rush hour traffic.

    • Ryan Donlon August 7, 2017, 10:13 am

      Hi M. Hill,

      You indicate that you “had the misfortune of trying to enter a roundabout when cars already in do not slow for those attempting to enter.” But cars “already in” the roundabout are not supposed to slow down. Rather, cars entering the roundabout are supposed to yield to those already in the roundabout. For the TAMC’s driving tips on how to navigate a roundabout, see this webiste: http://www.tamcmonterey.org/programs/roundabout-projects/for-vehicles/driving-tips/

      My lone frustration with roundabouts is the converse, i.e., driving behind a car entering the roundabout that come to a full stop when there is no other car already in the roundabout, and thus no one to whom to yield. As long as all cars yield when supposed to yield, and enter when supposed to enter, roundabouts operate quite smoothly.



  • Jean August 7, 2017, 8:57 am

    Traffic signal synchronization improves traffic flow and can reduce vehicular air pollution. If memory serves, Monterey’s traffic engineer, Rich Deal, worked on synchronization on Lighthouse Avenue in New Monterey. The results were impressive.

    At some point, however, even the best intentions and technical breakthroughs are unable to compensate for decisions to overload the landscape.

  • Jane Haines August 7, 2017, 10:05 am

    It’s off the topic of roundabouts but relevant to many of the above comments, plus I’ll get beat up for saying this, but don’t underestimate the role of unions in making housing unaffordable, particularly at Ft. Ord. Prevailing wages for a carpenter exceed $70 hourly https://www.dir.ca.gov/oprl/2017-1/PWD/Determinations/Northern/NC-023-31-1.pdf and prevailing wages for other construction jobs are similarly high. Since FORA claims all development at Ft. Old is government-related (a dubious claim in my opinion), no one is going to produce affordable housing at Ft. Old without subsidies because government-related work necessitates payment of prevailing wages. Carpenters deserve living wages, as do school teachers, but few school teachers make $70 hourly. As one local union leader stated to me, “that’s because school teachers don’t have as good a union as carpenters have.”

  • bob bressan August 7, 2017, 10:24 am

    if traffic circles improve traffic flow to allow 5% more vehicles per hour during prime time to pass through the corridor fire years after five years of construction but construction reduces the number of vehicles per hour through the corridor during the five years of construction by 25% per hour during prime time then it would take 25 years before any net time savings for travelers is realized. These numbers are just guestimates but any realistic plan must plug in some numbers for this sort of analysis. You cannot assume the cost of peoples time is zero. Traffic light synchronization would have less negative up front commute time impact and more immediate throughput upon completion.

  • joyce August 7, 2017, 2:16 pm

    Hello Ann, Thanks for your efforts and input on these traffic nightmares. We have seen narrow escapes from serious accidents in many Roundabouts around the world. The Holman Hwy one
    has several serious design flaws, described before construction began by two former Engineers.
    One of the worst, is the error in constructing a very busy Roundabout at the top of a hill (Carmel
    Hill) where southbound traffic arrives at excess speed (to get up the hill), and shoots into the complex Roundabout, where they cannot yet see the several other cars they are about to collide with. Drivers coming from the Hospital, or PG, cannot yet see the speeding drivers that are about
    to come shooting over the hill, from the left Monterey side(with no”Caution or Slow” signs to warn them to slow down, as they need to do, to prevent problems). So these drivers from PG or Hospital unable to yet see the cars coming over the crest of the hill, at excess speeds, must risk injury, because some Engineer failed to realize it is dangerous to put such a busy Roundabout at the top of a steep hill! Good Luck, and you might want to put your St. Christopher Medal in the car.

    • Helga Fellay August 7, 2017, 7:55 pm

      joyce, a couple or 3 of the phrases you used in your comment jumped out at me:
      “speeding drivers that are about to come shooting over the hill,”
      “with no”Caution or Slow” signs to warn them to slow down”
      “at excess speeds”
      I guess what startles me is that Roundabouts have been around everywhere except here for quite some time, and adapting to its own rules or, shall we call it etiquette, seems to be simple enough (including in El Salvador, where I spent one summer and people have no problems using them safely, and, as far as I was able to ascertain, Salvadorans don’t even have to pass a written test to get a driver’s license).
      When you approach a Roundabout, you don’t approach it “with excess speeds” anymore than you would approach a Stop Sign or a red light with excess speeds. Roundabouts don’t (or shouldn’t) require ”Caution or Slow” signs to warn them to slow down” any more than regular Stop Signs, or Red Lights, require ”Caution or Slow” signs to warn them to slow down.” Right of way rules at Roundabouts are no different from Right of Way rules in general. Incoming traffic yields to traffic already there. This is true when you enter a freeway from an onramp, or enter a Roundabout. You approach a Roundabout at a reduced rate of speed, and blend in with the traffic already in the Roundabout, the same way to approach a freeway from an onramp. If there is no traffic at the time you arrive, you need not slow down (and certainly not stop!) but simply proceed. It’s VERY important to give a right-turn signal as you approach your exit, to signal to the person approaching that entrance that it’s safe to proceed. It’s really not that complex. And statistics show clearly that Roundabouts results in fewer accidents, and accidents that do occur tend to be fender benders rather than fatal crashes. If EVERYBODY follows the rules, there shouldn’t even be reason for fender benders due to reduced speeds.

      • Jeanne Turner August 9, 2017, 8:21 pm

        That is how a ROUNDABOUT works but as I mentioned earlier, the pseudo-roundabout up near CHOMP allows traffic exiting from Highway 1 South the right of way – to go right toward PG, straight to PB or around to the east toward Aguajito with no interference, while traffic coming from PG has to come to a HALT because there is no way to go south or east with that steady flow coming from the north. And that doesn’t even take the professional center left turn debacle onto 86 into consideration.

        • Tim Huntington August 11, 2017, 7:27 pm

          Jeanne, you are mistaken – traffic from 1 south that’s headed to PG does not have to yield as you said, though it does have to merge with traffic coming off the roundabout towards PG. All other traffic, from all directions, has to yield to traffic already on the roundabout, which includes 1 south heading to PB or Aguajito. Traffic coming from PG also has the advantage of three lanes (one to 1 south, two to Aguajito/1 North) that can enter the roundabout at one time when it’s clear.

  • Tim Huntington August 7, 2017, 8:35 pm

    I grew up and learned to drive in the land of roundabouts (the UK) and was always struck by the inefficiency of all the stoplights and 4-way stops I encountered when I moved to California, wondering why roundabouts weren’t deployed here more often.

    Synchronized lights are definitely better than not synchronized, but not by that much (I used to commute on Lawrence Expressway in Santa Clara both before and after its lights were synchronized).

    Roundabouts are not always the answer, but often are. The new roundabout at Holman Highway and 1 is already making my traversing of that junction a much more agreeable experience, from all directions, and it should only get better as all the lanes are fully open and the locals who are not used to roundabouts get to grips with their usage and etiquette.

  • M. Hill August 13, 2017, 10:14 am

    I made comment before about entering roundabouts. Roundabouts located in more rural, less trafficked four way intersections worked very well. Busses service the schools in San Benancio, Corral de Tierra and Toro Park during rush hour. The bus drivers will need to enter roundabouts with commuters already in, many of whom may dislike being behind a bus.
    The area is already a traffic nightmare , including those speeding through Portola Dr, and side streets in Toro Park where kids are walking to school or bus stops. Combine busses, commuter traffic, parents dropping off kids to the many schools, potential construction traffic for proposed projects on Hwy 68 in the Toro/San Benancio area with construction of roundabouts and you have a basically blocked artery.
    Most of us have seen commuters use turn lanes on 68 during rush hour as passing lanes to jump ahead of lines of traffic and worse. I am of the opinion the least invasive option during construction of same and after is the bypass road.

  • Kelly August 13, 2017, 3:00 pm

    One big issue is Toro Park School, you have one car per kid getting dropped off during the commute hours of 7-8am. Even the in district students don’t ride the bus like they use to. All the outer district students who come from Salinas only make is worse. I have heard many neighbors in Toro park suggest an 8:30 school start time, just like Spreckels school, who also have many outer district students that commute onto Hwy 68 from other cities. You notice when Toro School is out, the traffic on HWY 68 is not as bad from toro 7-11 to Corral de Tierra.. Toro park is a zoo when School is in session.

  • Tom Moore August 13, 2017, 11:06 pm

    Roundabouts and turn signals – here’s what I learned from navigating many roundabouts in France:

    1. If you are entering a roundabout and will exit it at the first exit available to you, then put your right turn blinker on. This tells everyone trying to enter the roundabout from the roadway you are going to exit onto (in the opposite direction from them) that you will not be passing in front of them.
    2. If you are entering a roundabout and will go around it PAST the first available exit, then put your left turn blinker on. This will warn drivers wishing to enter the roundabout at that first available exit (for you) that you will proceed past them and that they must yield to you before they enter the roundabout. Then as you approach the place in the roundabout where you will in fact exit, switch your turn signal from left turn to right turn.

    It’s pretty simple if you think carefully about it. Also note that if you fail to do 1. (or do not use your right turn signal just before you exit the roundabout) you are “just” being rude to other drivers trying to enter the roundabout. However, if you fail to do 2. you might just get in a collision – you won’t be at fault, but that’s little consolation if you are injured or your car destroyed. After all, the point of 2. is to let other drivers who are trying to enter the roundabout know that you will be driving past their entrance.

  • Peggy Johnson August 14, 2017, 4:28 pm

    The Marina roundabouts took some getting used to, but now I like them. The traffic here doesn’t compare to that on Hwy 68. I’ve had to drive for miles out of my way to find an intersection with a stop light to get turned around and go the other way after leaving the SPCA during rush hour. The basic problem (as usual) is too much development because of population growth.