Trees near a major gateway to downtown Napa will begin to disappear – at least for a time – as the city and state prepare to build a trio of traffic roundabouts near Highway 29.
Starting in October and continuing for just over a month, a contractor will remove about 60 trees in the vicinity of First Street and California Boulevard, according to Eric Whan, Napa’s interim public works director. The removals will clear space needed to start demolition and grading for construction of three traffic hubs that will connect Highway 29 with First and Second streets and California Boulevard, eliminating traffic signals at an interchange that funnels visitors into central Napa.
Construction of the roundabouts is scheduled to begin next spring and last 18 to 20 months, with the new traffic pattern going into service by the end of 2020, said Whan. The project also will reverse the one-way flow of First and Second streets, carrying motorists leaving Highway 29 eastbound onto First Street into downtown and channeling westbound vehicles onto Second Street toward the freeway and the Browns Valley area.
Tree cutting this fall will involve periodic traffic controls in the construction zone, which may include both flaggers and lane closures, Whan said. Most work is expected to take place outside of weekday commuting hours.
Capping the roundabout project will be a re-landscaping of the streets connected to Highway 29. That phase will include planting 73 new trees and 2,489 shrubs and smaller plants, senior civil engineer John Ferons said Monday.
AT&T and Comcast already have relocated equipment inside the construction area, and PG&E is scheduled to move some buried utility lines in October, the city said in a statement.
When complete, the traffic realignment – jointly designed by Napa and Caltrans and estimated to cost $6 million – is meant to improve driver safety and relieve congestion to and from four-lane Highway 29. Rotary hubs will replace the freeway’s interchange with First Street as well as the First-California and California-Second intersections.
Drivers will pass through the roundabouts counterclockwise in a pattern intended to keep traffic flowing slowly but steadily, reducing the chances of dangerous broadside collisions.
With the reversal of one-way traffic on First and Second streets, motorists currently leaving the freeway will no longer follow First south to California before turning left on Second, but take two circles to continue east on First. Those who take Second on their way out of downtown will pass through all three circles en route to Highway 29 or neighborhoods in west Napa.
This story has been modified since first posting to include information about replantings.