The Madera County Public Works Department is in the last phase of the design of a roundabout at the intersection of Road 274 and Road 225 just east of North Fork, and will hold a public workshop at 6 p.m., tonight (Oct. 26), at North Fork Elementary School, to provide details of the plan.
According to the department, the project will convert the existing non-standard four-leg, three-way stop controlled intersection into a roundabout to improve circulation and safety for existing and future traffic traveling through this intersection.
The workshop is being held to discuss the proposed roundabout center island treatment options as well as other questions related to the project. The project is currently at 90% design.
County Public Works staff, design engineers, and Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler will be available to discuss the project and answer questions at the workshop.
“Residents are invited to attend the public workshop to learn more about the project, provide input and suggestions, and ask questions,” said Deputy Public Works Director Jared Carter.
At a public meeting in late March, Carter said his department had received many complaints from people about the safety of the intersection.
Carter said though Mountain Area residents may be used to it, a four-way, three-stop intersection is unusual, and creates the potential for dangerous t-bone car accidents.
The Oakhurst CHP Cmdr. Craig Hinch later added in the last two years there have been four injury accidents at the intersection, with a high possibility of additional crashes that went unreported to law enforcement.
The intersection has no stop sign on its eastbound path out of North Fork, but has signs on its three other sides. That was intended to allow logging trucks to travel through town when the lumber industry was thriving and the North Fork Mill was operational.
Carter said the county looked at the possibility of adding a stop sign or traffic signal to the intersection, but decided a roundabout was the safest option for the long term.
“Our number one responsibility is safety,” Carter said. “Because of that, and the functionality of a roundabout, that’s what really drove our decision.”
David Peters of Clovis firm Peters Engineering Group - hired by the county for $237,010 to perform design work - said studies from the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies show roundabouts help reduce accidents by as much as 62% compared to intersections controlled by stop signs.
To fund the project, at an estimated total cost of $1.86 million - including engineering, the right of way process, and construction - Carter said federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funds will cover 70%, with Measure T, approved in 2006, to supplement the remainder.
“This funding has been authorized and secured to the county for this project,” Carter said. “If it’s not used for this, it will go somewhere else.”
Peters said the goal is to have construction set to start next spring and finish by summer, 2018.
He added during the four months or so of construction, staff will work to avoid any closures of the intersection, with public notice sent out beforehand should any be needed.
“We always strive to maintain traffic through an intersection during construction,” Peters said. “That’s the goal, to keep traffic going through a construction zone. We’re pretty experienced in working that out with the contractor.”