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By Mike Hazlip–
The City of Citrus Heights is moving forward with pursuing grant funding for design and construction of a plan that would install two “circular intersections” and other features designed to ease congestion and improve safety near three local schools.
Leslie Blomquist of the city’s General Services department provided an overview of the city’s Carriage Drive/Lauppe Lane Safe Schools Corridor plan during a council meeting last month, outlining several measures including wider sidewalks, green conflict markings, curb extensions, and raised crosswalks to make pedestrian and vehicle traffic more manageable along the corridor.
The initiative calls for the addition of circular intersections on Carriage Drive at both Pratt Avenue and Kanai Avenue, with a new entrance to Carriage Drive Elementary School from Pratt Avenue. Blomquist described one of the intersections as being “a small roundabout, most likely,” but said the reference to a “circular intersection” includes a traffic circle option.
The Lauppe Lane corridor serves Mesa Verde High School, Carriage Drive Elementary School, and Citrus Heights Elementary School. Student enrollment has increased 25% since 2016 at the nearby schools, according to a staff report. Blomquist said prior to COVID-19 school closures, over 2,200 students attended the schools each school day.
Funds to develop the plan came from a Sustainable Communities Grant awarded by Caltrans in 2018. The plan is conceptual in nature, with the council’s approval of it last month being a necessary step to put the city in a more competitive position for obtaining grants for the future project.
Blomquist outlined three main goals for the proposal: maximizing safety, accommodating a wide range of transportation options, and providing access to nearby destinations.
Along Lauppe Lane, a proposed 16-foot “shared use path” for bikes and pedestrians would be installed on one side, with 8-foot parking lanes and 10-foot-wide drive lanes in both directions.
As shown in the plan, entrance to the parking lot at Kanai Avenue and Carriage would be restricted to a bus-only entrance off Carriage Drive, with passenger vehicles instead entering a one-way entrance on Kanai, looping through the parking lot and out a one-way exit further along Kanai.
Mayor Steve Miller reminded the council that a previous proposal for the new entrance was met with resistance because it would reduce the school’s play area. Blomquist was optimistic about new administration at the school renewing cooperation for the project between the city and school district.
The plan’s adoption received 5-0 support from the council during a Dec. 10 meeting, although some skepticism of roundabouts was expressed by Councilman Bret Daniels and Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins.
“I like roundabouts, but I’m really trying to visualize how that’s going to make that better,” said Daniels. “The problem there isn’t the vehicle traffic, it’s the pedestrian traffic and how it impacts the vehicle traffic, because the vehicles have to wait for the pedestrians.”
Blomquist reported 48% of feedback received about safety improvements for the area were supportive of circular intersections and said such intersections reduce vehicle speeds, improve traffic flow, allow for safe U-turns, and reduce crash risks.
The adoption of the plan is the culmination of research that included crash data, traffic count data, existing roadway configurations, resident calls, emails and videos, community engagement feedback, stakeholder interviews, and existing city programs, according to the presentation.
The city also hosted 12 separate outreach events to gather community input dating back to May 2019, according to the presentation. More than 40% of community members said pedestrian safety was the top concern, according to the city’s compilation of feedback received. School parking lot access, and access to residential homes along the corridor were the second and third top concerns raised, with receiving just over 10%.
Before construction can begin, the plan will require grant funding to be secured, additional environmental review, and a final plan design to be approved by the council. A similar conceptual plan was approved last year to enable grant funding to be sought for the city’s Old Auburn Road Complete Streets project.
The approved 43-page Carriage Drive/Lauppe Lane Safe Schools Corridor concept plan can be viewed on the city’s website.
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