Circling Safety in Palmdale: New Roundabout Opens
Round and round we go! District 7 completes its first roundabout in Los Angeles County.
The days of sitting at red lights at Palmdale Boulevard (SR-138) and 47th Street East in Palmdale are over.
On June 3, District 7 Director Doug Failing hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new roundabout at the location – the first built by Caltrans in Los Angeles County. He was joined by City of Palmdale Mayor James C. Ledford, Jr.; Lisa Moulton, representing State Senator George Runner; Isaac Barcelona, representing Assembly Member Steve Knight; Michael Cano, representing Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich; and Bill Taylor, representing the project contractor, Granite Construction.
“This important project puts us on the cutting edge of traffic design – right here in Palmdale,” Failing told the crowd of about 40 attendees. “Community residents, businesses and commuters will benefit from this roundabout for years to come in safer, faster commutes and improved quality of life.”
Before the roundabout was built, five roads came together forming two intersections just a few yards apart. “Roundabouts tend to be safer than intersections,” said Resident Engineer Iraj Hormozi. “With a roundabout, everyone has to yield and slow down.”
Safety isn’t the only benefit the new roundabout offers. It will improve traffic flow, minimize delays and reduce fuel consumption. Additionally, the $19-million roundabout cost less to construct than a traditional four-way intersection. Maintenance costs will also be lower.
Despite the benefits, not everyone in the community embraced the roundabout initially.
“It was confusing for some residents at first because this was totally new,” Hormozi said. “There were a few negative letters written to the paper at the beginning, but not anymore. They like it at this point.”
The early confusion was understandable. Although circular intersections are common in Europe and in some places on the East Coast, roundabouts are few and far between in Southern California. Driving through one can be disorienting for the uninitiated.
Modern roundabouts, like the one in Palmdale, require motorists to drive in a counterclockwise direction, with entering traffic yielding to traffic inside. Signage, educational materials and experience have helped get motorists up to speed on how to use the new roundabout and feel comfortable driving through it.
Winning over residents was one of numerous challenges the project presented. Construction of the roundabout, which began in May 2008, involved numerous changes, requiring careful coordination between the design and construction teams. One major change was the addition of a left-turn pocket to the shopping center, which wasn’t part of the original design.
Now that the roundabout is complete, Palmdale’s infrastructure will be better able to handle the expected growth in the Antelope Valley in the coming years. The experience District 7 has gained will be helpful on future projects.
“This was my first roundabout, and I learned a lot from it.” said Hormozi. “Given all the benefits they offer, I expect we might be implementing more roundabouts in the future.