Mixed opinions on North Fork roundabout project

Mixed opinions have formed over a proposed project to turn the stop-sign controlled intersection at Road 274 and Road 225 in North Fork into a roundabout, at an estimated eventual cost of more than $1 million.

Preliminary engineering and design work, contracted through Peters Engineering Group of Clovis at a cost of $237,010, was approved by the Madera County Board of Supervisors Oct. 4. In the contract the firm says it will conduct necessary environmental and traffic studies to improve the roadway from its current four-leg, three-way stop controlled design to a one-lane roundabout.

For many in the area, the intersection has proven at least partially hazardous due to a steep hill along Road 225 coming from Bass Lake that leads to a stop sign, which can prove challenging for logging trucks or less aware drivers.

Jared Carter, deputy public works director of Madera County, said based on data available to the county, four accidents have been reported at the intersection since January of 2011. On Oct. 14, another accident was reported as well.

But Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, a North Fork resident, said there’s many more accidents often reported only to insurance companies.

“That intersection has been a headache for us for the last 40 years,” Wheeler said. “I’d say there’s probably at least two accidents there a month.”

Many residents, on social media or at community meetings, have said adding a stop sign along Road 275 headed east out of North Fork, with enhanced signage would be a better solution. But Wheeler disagreed.

“You can’t have a stop sign going uphill because trucks can’t stop on a steep hill and get going again,” Wheeler said. “Especially loaded ones. We’ve got trucks that pass through here hauling logs, cement, all kinds of things, and a stop sign just wouldn’t work.”

Several residents still disagree a roundabout is the proper way to improve the area’s traffic.

Cindy Greenwood, director of the Sierra Mono Museum located near the intersection, said the general consensus is the roundabout will prove to be a poor idea.

“People don’t slow down going down that hill and they’re not going to slow for a roundabout,” Greenwood said. “But we as a community want to know more before a decision is made.”

County staff estimate the studies will take several months, with a tentative construction date of late summer next year.

Should the project prove feasible, Carter said the estimated construction costs will range from $1 million to $1.5 million dollars, funded through funds from the county, Measure T - a half-cent transportation sales tax increase approved in 2006 - and federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grants.