About the Colony

New cost of Atascadero's roundabouts is appalling

Lon Allan
Lon Allan

Several years ago a proposal was made for a roundabout on Atascadero's Santa Ysabel Avenue behind the Vons complex at the intersection with the tiny little street of Robles Avenue. The folks there were pretty much against it, saying it was overkill.

I think roundabouts were discussed at the Santa Barbara Road offramp to handle traffic loads there as a result of residential development nearby. But roundabouts are again on the table for this freeway interchange as well when the Eagle Ranch is developed.

When we learned more than a year ago that there are three roundabouts planned for Del Rio Road where a proposed Wal-Mart and other retail outlets are to be constructed, I was surprised there wasn’t an outcry.

Have you ever driven in a roundabout? I compare it to the merry-go-round at the park where you jump on as it gets spinning and then you have to decide when is just the right time to jump off, hoping you land upright.

The roundabout in Morro Bay is an example. You aren’t sure what to do once you get in it. When do you move to the middle? When do you stay on the outside?

The roundabout as a traffic mitigation measure is certainly going to have its critics, especially three of them inserted into a rather low-density neighborhood on Del Rio Road.

All that aside, the term “roundabout” is fast becoming a political term with negative overtones, such as, “What are those (roundabouts) going to cost?” and the glib response being “roundabout $4.5 million.”

Because now we’ve learned they are actually going to cost “roundabout $12.4 million” with the council unable to make Wal-Mart pay more than an agreed-upon share, leaving the city to come up with nearly $7 million on its own.

I am generally in agreement with a proposed tax hike facing voters on the November ballot of one-half percent that would be used for the upkeep and repair of local streets. That could generate “roundabout” $1.7 million a year in additional funds for street improvements.

But I certainly don’t want that new tax revenue to be used to bail the council out of the $6 million to $7 million hole it has dug for itself.

Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi was right on the money (no pun intended) in calling the most recent closer-to-realistic figure for the Wal-Mart commercial project’s road mitigation costs “appalling.”