Second Roundabout in Meyers moves ahead: Officials hope for traffic to flow “like clockwork”
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After years of planning for the multi-modal project, a second roundabout will be constructed on U.S. Highway 50 along the Meyers corridor as soon as summer of 2024.
According to Donaldo Palaroan, P.E. Senior Civil Engineer for El Dorado County Department of Transportation and Project Manager of the upcoming roundabout, Meyers has planned to have two roundabouts since the Meyers Community plan developed in 1993.
Palaroan added that it’s not unusual to have two roundabouts for this area.
“Kings Beach is in development of a third roundabout to accomplish a similar goal of keeping the small town feel versus a high-paced city,” Palaroan told the Tribune.
In 2019, Ron Boyle, Senior Manager of the multi-disciplinary company, GHD, introduced the board of supervisors to ‘Roundabout 101′: The presentation covered the typical roundabout, its impact on lowering speed while easing traffic flow.
Also during this presentation, Boyle explained a modern roundabout is more than a circle, contrary to what it may seem. A modern roundabout is a yield-on-entry speed abatement tool that is more eco-friendly than a signaled intersection, according to the consultant.
“Yes, you’re adding sidewalks, but you’re reducing the impervious surfaces,” Boyle told the Supervisors in 2019.
Roundabouts are proven to improve air quality by reducing idle time, as well as require less long term maintenance, and it is statistically safer for maintenance to be performed in a roundabout in comparison to a signaled stop, according to Roundabout 101.
During the COVID-19 shut down in 2020, the consultant project team, along with state and County support, analyzed the project and crafted the environmental document, now known as the Intersection Safety Improvement Project, although it took longer than anticipated to complete.
Close to two years later, in January 2022, the Intersection Safety Improvement Project was presented to the supervisors and gained approval to move forward.
According to District V Supervisor Brooke Laine, the project recently became fully funded after being awarded competitive regional grant funding from TRPA earlier in 2023.
Currently, final designs are expected to be completed by the end of summer, with advertisements for construction bids are anticipated to begin during the winter 2023/2024 season.
The constraints placed on the building plans by dig season and due to the pressure on the infrastructure without construction, the project might need to be extended longer than the existing roundabout, according to Palaroan
While the project is currently in the design process, not everyone is convinced the roundabout is the right answer.
“There are so many unintended consequences, the people behind the traffic light on Highway 50 and the roundabout, [sometimes] we can hardly get out of the houses onto the street to the main road due to a nonstop flow of traffic. Kenny Curtzwiler said, when project engineers called him to ask what it would take to get his support on the project.
Curtzwiler told the Tribune that it would take, first, fixing the existing roundabout in Meyers.
“Take out the bike path and make a dedicated right hand turn lane going from Highway 50 onto Pioneer Trail. Better signage is also needed, it’s confusing,” Curtzwiler said. The engineers agreed with him.
The current design for the roundabout at US 50 and Pioneer Trail includes a free right turn from eastbound US 50 to eastbound Pioneer Trail. It also includes a bypass lane that will allow westbound US 50 traffic to bypass the roundabout circle, similar to the roundabout at US 50 and US 89 at the west end of Meyers, according to John Kahling Deputy Director of Engineering with El Dorado County.
“It’s a mostly federally-funded project. Let’s make it the best for all modes of transportation. Nothing works great during traffic jams,” Supervisor Laine told the Tribune.
Laine told the Tribune that she anticipates the second roundabout’s completion would make traffic “flow like clockwork.”
Jeff Spencer, past El Dorado County District V Supervisor candidate disagreed and said “It is in my opinion that the one at 89 doesn’t work very well and putting one at pioneer is going to back traffic up more, all the way up the hill.”
Palaroan discussed the roundabout with the Meyers community during the last Meyers Advisory Council meeting on April 5 public comment, questions and concerns were discussed about the project.
The concerns discussed were echos of those previously expressed by the public.
Arguably one of the most important concern voiced, having adequate room for emergency personnel to maneuver around the structure.
Lake Valley Fire requested to limit amount of signs in the splitter island, according to Palaroan, stating signs would add additional elements to an already challenging obstacle course.
Palaroan told the Tribune that the issues with the Highway 50/89 roundabout have been taken into consideration when designing the new one.
The only challenge the project currently faces, he added, is working with Caltrans to identify minimum signage and placement, otherwise designs are complete.
In its multi-use capacity, the roundabout would additionally serve the purposes of speed surveys and traffic count, which would also be included in the construction, being led by the County with support and oversight by Caltrans.
During the April meeting, John Dayberry, a member of the MAC asked about the possibility to enhance the visual aspect of the project by not only introducing “community art” to the center of the roundabout but also including a Meyers sign at the entrance of the town.
“The project is to address safety”, Palaroan addressed Dayberry during the meeting, “there may be opportunities for beautification in the future but funding limits the current project scope.”
“The project is funded with federal funds so has to meet federal standards”, Palaroan told the Tribune. He added “The Meyers Community Foundation wanted to fund the sign, but they have not committed to a set funding plan so it will not be part of the current project”.
Dayberry additionally expressed the previous attempts to beautify the existing roundabout at the time of construction were thwarted.
“[Dayberry] contacted me about the 50/89 roundabout in Meyers back in 2021 and I put him in touch with our Transportation Art coordinator for the district, who then shared the Transportation Art webpage. Caltrans never denied any requests. We’ve never received an application to review,” Steve Nelson, Chief Public Information Officer for District 3 Cal Trans, told the Tribune.
Three such signs that say “Welcome to Lake Tahoe” were installed around the lake in 2014.
When asked if there would be future considerations for the MCF’s request of a town sign Palaroan told the Tribune it’s not only funding that is a hindrance to the Meyers gateway sign.
“The gateway sign has been years in discussion. I’ve tried to nudge [MCF] along but it’s been a challenge to get the sign’s dimensions and exact locations, for the entrance and exit, dialed like Caltrans requested,” Palaroan said he is open to continuing discussions to bring the gateway to Meyers sign to life.
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