LAFAYETTE -- Plans to revitalize a section of Mt. Diablo Boulevard with new medians and a roundabout meant to calm traffic and make the area safer for pedestrians are being met with skepticism.
Planning commissioners were divided this week over the merits of the circular traffic feature whose construction could begin next spring if approved by the city council. The council will address the topic Monday, Aug. 13.
The roundabout is part of a pedestrian and bikescape improvement project stemming from the downtown street improvements master plan adopted in the late 1980s. The project includes new medians and upgraded crosswalks on Mt. Diablo Boulevard between First Street and Brown Avenue.
The city would pay more than $540,000 for the medians and $225,000 for the roundabout. Lafayette has received a grant to pay for the medians and is looking for other grants to pay for the roundabout, according to city Engineering Services Manager Tony Coe.
At a planning meeting Monday, Coe did his best to tout the changes, including the roundabout, which would be located at the intersection of Golden Gate Way and Mt. Diablo Boulevard between Blackwood Lane and Brown Avenue.
Following complaints from some businesses about the lack of left-hand turns due to the medians, their design has been reconfigured to allow for some access to driveways on Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Coe said. He called the alternative layout a balanced compromise that preserves
The roundabout would make people go slower on an "austere" section of Mt. Diablo Boulevard where motorists often travel at high speeds, Coe said. He showed videos of pedestrians trying to cross the street against traffic and said people feel intimated in the area and unsafe using the crosswalk. Bike ramps would also be built.
Coe said he felt the project, which would be near the site of future senior housing, supported the vision of a small-town downtown and "was an elegant solution for the area."
Commissioners embraced the medians but weren't as enthusiastic about the roundabout. They questioned whether they were safe for those with limited mobility and asked to see more examples of existing roundabouts in the Bay Area.
Some residents were even less impressed. They disagreed with the proposed location and said slowing down the traffic would send more people onto side streets. They also questioned the cost of reconfiguring the street should the roundabout not work.
Should officials not approve the roundabout, the medians could be built without it. Coe said. The city would add medians to the intersection and upgrade the crosswalks with a high-visibility design or the council could also ask for more alternatives.