Test roundabout at 9th Street and Donax Avenue
Residents near the 9th Street and Donax Avenue roundabout showed up at the Imperial Beach council meeting last week, March 18, to let council members know what they thought of the demonstration project put in place last November.
"When you're running a test on live individuals, you have got to notify them, you got to notify," said Augustin Rojas, who lives near the intersection. "It's a problem that's waiting for an accident to happen."
About a dozen of Rojas's neighbors came to speak at the review of the three-month-long demonstration project and to urge the city to shut the whole thing down and return to stop signs.
"Demonstrations aren't something that go on indefinitely," Albert Knecht said. "We tried it, we spent the money on it, it's done."
The review of the project received 109 comments via email, phone, and letters; 6 were in support of continuing the project. The test cost about $10,000 and will come down for about $500 worth of materials. Had it been a success, the city would have built a structure that would have cost about $300,000.
About 5600 cars a day go through the intersection, most going north or south, according to the traffic engineer's report. The roundabout replaced four-way stop signs with the traffic circle that narrowed two lanes of traffic north and two lanes south on 9th and funneled it into a circle with east and west traffic from Donax.
The circle has crosswalk ramps set back and outside the circle. The idea was to reduce the amount of time spent waiting and the amount of gasoline burned with the starts and stops at the intersection. In creating the circle, the neighbors lost 16 parking spaces and, according to complaints, lost some access to driveways at the apartment buildings on the street corners.
But the city lacked vehicle exhaust emissions data from before the project began and then didn't collect it once the circle was in place, making the environmental argument one built on speculation. Residents and drivers found the roundabout confusing, according to comments.
Fire trucks had a hard time going through, and crashes increased from one at the intersection in the same three-month period last year to two this year, according to the sheriff's department. The circle was so small that many drivers barreled through with little slowing, according to the observations of city manager Andy Hall. Pedestrians said they don't feel safe.
Sybil Rogert, who walks most places, said that the way the roundabout was laid out was "a hindrance to pedestrians and disabled vehicle traffic." "I myself have seen the apprehension of pedestrians," Rogert said.
Robert Fulton, who walks all around Imperial Beach despite what macular degeneration is doing to his sight, said that he goes blocks out of the way to avoid the roundabout.
"When it comes to four-wheeled, two-ton things coming at me, I have a bigger issue," Fulton said. "I'm worried that I'm going to get hit."
Council members were disappointed by the failure of the project — and split on the idea of making adjustments or ending it.
Councilman Edward Spriggs said the problem was that the project wasn't fully explained to the nearby residents. "More public education would have been useful," he said. "We had a chance to do it right. We didn't. It's not the people of Imperial Beach's fault…we didn't win people over with this project."
Two council members voted to continue the project and make needed adjustments.
"We shouldn't be giving up on this. The fact is that this benefits the community," Brian Bilbray said, a sentiment echoed by Robert Patton. But, on a three-two vote met by applause, the council voted to end the project.