Weighing the positive and negative impacts of closing First Street near the Rancho Vista subdivision to allow for the construction of a roundabout, the San Juan Bautista City Council opted to keep one lane open with traffic flagmen at each end of the construction zone. A design has been approved by the city and construction is scheduled to start on Feb. 1.
Julie Behzad with CSG Consultants, acting as San Juan Bautista’s city engineer, presented an update to the City Council on the project at First Street and Lavagnino Drive on Jan. 19. She said the city had two options for traffic control during construction: closing the road in the area or keeping one lane open. Closing the road would have allowed the project to be completed within 10 to 12 weeks, but would have forced traffic to take a five-mile detour to Prescott Road.
By keeping a lane open, the project time could be extended by as many as six weeks and create traffic delays throughout the day. This option was favored by several stakeholders including residents, Anzar High School and emergency services, according to Behzad.
Agreeing with concerns raised by community members and noting the impact it would have on local farmers, the City Council unanimously voiced support for keeping one lane open.
Resident EJ Sabathia raised an additional concern that closing the road meant eliminating an evacuation route out of town in case of an emergency.
Councilman Scott Freels, a former volunteer firefighter, agreed with Sabathia’s point.
“In light of what happened today, we had multiple communities within a half an hour from here that are evacuating today,” Freels said regarding a fire advisory related to high winds. “First Street is our northern egress out of town and is an evacuation route. I would hate to see it closed.”
Planning Commissioner David Medeiros spoke at the meeting and said it was important for the city to conduct a traffic study before and after the roundabout is constructed to analyze the impact on “the speeding problem on First Street.”
Mayor Leslie Jordan said closing the road could be beneficial in stopping big-rig trucks from going through town, which they are not allowed to do. However, Behzad said having flaggers as traffic control can have the same effect.
San Juan Bautista and developer Meritage Homes had been at odds for some time over the roundabout, which is a condition of approval for the Rancho Vista subdivision. Meritage Homes tried to avoid constructing the roundabout, arguing that the street was too narrow.
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