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Unpopular Nipomo traffic circle to be removed

A much-debated traffic circle in Nipomo will soon be removed.

“That’s nice,” said Nipomo resident Todd Morrison. “We’re really happy to see that it’s coming out.”

On Thursday, Morrison, along with several other residents that live in the community near South Tejas, attended a meeting held by San Luis Obispo County Public Works.

At the meeting, Transportation Planning and Traffic Operations Supervisor Michael Britton announced the traffic demonstration project will end with the traffic circle being taken out.

“In order to do something of this magnitude really require community support and that’s something that we just don’t have in this situation,” said Britton. “Since the community isn’t supportive of putting in the traffic circle, there isn’t an impetus to keep it there.”

The County installed the traffic circle at the intersection of South Tejas Place and Ida Place in April.

It was viewed as a potential permanent solution for dangerous speeding through the residential community.

Over the last several months, data has been collected by measuring speed of cars, as well as surveying residents.

Britton said measurements show the traffic circle did indeed reduce speed.

“There is no doubt,” said Britton. “If you look at the data, the traffic circle definitely did its job. Prior to putting in the traffic circle, two-thirds of the drivers were exceeding the 25 miles per hour speed limit, after the traffic circle, it was one-third, so we cut down the amount of speeders in half.”

However, despite data showing the traffic circle reduced speed as residents have long asked for, the small rubber circular barrier proved to be very unpopular.

“I really don’t like the traffic circle,” said Trish Hall, who lives near the traffic circle. “It’s kind of more a nuisance than anything because about 90 percent of the time there’s no one actually coming down street. It’s really before and after school when the traffic is really a problem.”

Many residents complained about the visuals of the circle or the awkward turning directions.

According to surveying, only 20 percent of residents polled liked the traffic circle.

Forty percent were against it, while the other 40 percent said they were neutral.

The County needed at least 66 percent of residents to favor the project in order to consider keeping it.

“I was in favor of trying it,” said resident Bob Weiger. “It was a good experiment, but I don’t believe the intersection was suited for it. It was too small.”

The traffic circle is set to be removed within the next two weeks.

Once gone, many fear speeding will return as it was in the past.

“It would be nice to see people slowing down there and maybe a little bit more CHP presence,” said Morrison. “That should slow them down for a period of time.”

Morrison wants a four-way stop to be installed at the intersection, but Britton said the traffic volume is far too low for it to be considered.

Britton added a four-way stop would only be considered if there were extenuating circumstances, such as a sudden rise in accidents.

“I believe in this case, it’s worth pushing it and proceeding to try and get a four-way stop there despite the difficulty,” Morrison said. “It would be a lot less expensive than some of the other options.”

Other options include speed bumps, which are located on nearby Eucalyptus Road and Ten Oaks Way.

“I would be in favor of speed bumps,” said Morrison. “I think those work real well. They’ll slow the traffic down if you put them in the right spot.”

However, speed bumps would prove to be problematic on South Tejas Road, particularly due to the steep incline on the southern end of the road.

“The residents are strongly in favor of speed bumps, but this road has come challenges with regards of using speed humps on it,” said Britton.

Britton added the County will continue to look at other options and engage residents during the ongoing process.

“There’s been discussions about chicanes, which would be hardscape improvements or we could try painting improvements, see if that would make a difference,” Britton said. “But we are hard pressed to just keep throwing money at a problem to see if it works. We’d be wanting to look at something at least at this point that we could rely on long term.”

As the long search for a solution continues, many residents are remaining positive and optimistic.

“I am hopeful that there will be a solution that all the neighbors can get behind,” Hall said. “I hope that the people who do a lot of the speeding during those school times will be more cognizant of the kids in the area and the neighbors.”

Britton wants the neighbors to know Public Works will continue working towards a solution, whatever it may eventually be.

“When we do things of this nature, we really do have the interest of the neighborhood in mind,” said Britton. “We want what’s best for everybody. In this case, we didn’t have the support, but that’s okay. It did give us the opportunity to determine whether or not a measure like this works. We were able to determine that it did, so we have this tool to use in other locations and we would like to thank the neighborhood for their patience.”

He added that while it may not have worked at this particular location, a traffic circle may someday be installed somewhere else in San Luis Obispo County.

“At this point in time I don’t have any sites in mind, but we get complaints about speeding all the time,” Britton said. “Now that I know, because we have the data that it works, this will be something that we may throw out for consideration in those neighborhoods where these complaints come up.”

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