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Roundabouts mentioned as option for solving Highway 29 congestion in American Canyon

Roundabouts mentioned as option for solving Highway 29 congestion in American Canyon


One option being looked at by local transportation officials to ease congestion on Highway 29 in American Canyon is roundabouts. Here is what a roundabout at Napa Junction Road might look like.

Roundabouts have popped up as a possible solution to traffic congestion in yet another Napa County location: Highway 29 through American Canyon.

Instead of facing a gauntlet of traffic lights in the south county, motorists would instead go through a series of potentially six roundabouts.

The Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) unveiled the option at last week's American Canyon City Council meeting to a mixed reception. Several council members urged the agency to keep pursuing another alternative — adding lanes.

“Now we’ve heard from you about autonomous vehicles and multimodal and now we’re hearing roundabouts?” an exasperated City Councilmember David Oro told NVTA Executive Director Kate Miller.

Highway 29 through American Canyon is a south Napa County gateway to Solano County and the central Bay Area beyond. It carries about 50,000 vehicles daily. Rush hour can mean a crawl between five traffic signals.

Miller presented three improvement options. All have such features as adding bike/pedestrian paths and bus “jump” lanes at intersections to get buses through more quickly.

The three options are:

  • Keep today’s four lanes — two going each direction — and the traffic signals at five intersections.
  • Keep four lanes, remove traffic signals except at American Canyon Road and add roundabouts at Napa Junction Road, Eucalyptus Drive, Rio Del Mar, Poco Way, Donaldson Way and Crawford Way. Poco Way and Crawford Way have no traffic signals.
  • Widen Highway 29 through American Canyon from four lanes to six lanes, with three lanes going each direction. Keep today’s five traffic signals.

In an interview, Miller said roundabouts might cost $1 million to $2 million apiece. That option for six roundabouts might end up being reduced to roundabouts at only Napa Junction Road and Donaldson Way.

“It would be great if we could afford all of them, but it’s pricey,” Miller said.

Miller said she believes the traveling public would accept roundabouts on Highway 29. People seem to like the three roundabouts along First Street in the city of Napa, she said.

Roundabouts on Highway 29 in American Canyon could make the traffic flow more consistently, reduce the speeds and make the road safer, she said.

But American Canyon Vice Mayor Mark Joseph at last week's meeting called the multi-lane configuration of the proposed roundabouts “mindboggling.”

City Councilmember Mariam Aboudamous said she’s been through roundabouts in Jordan, where they are huge and some people drive aggressively.

“That’s a concern for me, because Donaldson Way — especially Donaldson Way — if you’ve ever tried to drive through there in the morning on a school day pre-COVID, very aggressive, very scary,” she said.

Miller gave several reasons why widening Highway 29 from four lanes to six lanes is unlikely. She showed the City Council a slide that outlined the “fatal flaws and drawbacks.”

For one thing, she noted that Caltrans oversees the highway. The agency is developing a climate action plan and capacity-adding projects are inconsistent with the draft plan, Miller said.

American Canyon could pursue having Caltrans relinquish control of this section of highway to the city. Then the city would have to take on annual maintenance costs of about $3 million, Miller said.

The NVTA has yet to estimate costs for the three alternatives. But agency officials said widening the highway could be cost-prohibitive because of the need to add right-of-way.

City Manager Jason Holley suggested making a narrower version of the proposed widening to better fit the existing Caltrans right-of-way. A planned 20-foot-median might be 14 feet. Twelve-foot-wide lanes might be 11 feet.

“I think we could certainly do that, but I would just question why we would pursue that unless the city is very serious about working with Caltrans to relinquish the right-of-way to the city,” Miller said. “Because Caltrans is just going to continue to push back on any type of capacity expansion.”

Oro, for his part, said he disliked hearing “no, no, no,” not from Caltrans, but from the NVTA. He criticized the NVTA for using such terms as “fatal flaws” instead of fighting for a widening idea he said is wanted by the community.

“When I read this packet and saw this, it makes me kind of livid,” Oro said.

The proposed Highway 29 widening is about more than adding capacity, he said. It includes removing power lines, adding bike lanes and sidewalks and making other improvements.

“It’s about beautification of a highway for a community that’s long been ignored here in Napa Valley in terms of what it could be in potential,” Oro said.

Mayor Leon Garcia wondered why, if Caltrans opposes capacity-increasing projects, there’s a proposal to add lanes to nearby Highway 37. Adding capacity makes sense in some places and American Canyon is one of them, he said.

Miller said that Caltrans doesn’t favor adding capacity without making the new lanes toll lanes. That’s what is being looked at for Highway 37.

The alternatives are part of a project initiative document being prepared for Highway 29 in American Canyon. The study must be done before major projects are constructed on the state highway system, NVTA officials said.

More work on the alternatives is to come, including public outreach meetings, NVTA officials said.

Roundabouts are also under consideration along Highway 29 between Yountville and St. Helena at Rutherford Cross Road and Oakville Cross Road.

Here's a look at some views and trails in Napa's Alston Park.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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