After more than four years of planning and preparation at a cost of about $2.8 million, Caltrans is ready to break ground to build a roundabout on Highway 1 just south of Fort Bragg.

Construction was estimated at $1.6 million, for a total cost of $4.4 million, but last week Fedco Construction Inc. of Santa Rosa was awarded the contract on a bid of $1.36 million, so the total cost should be less, around $4.2 million. Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie Jr. said Mendocino County is contributing $800,000 to the construction cost.

The roundabout will be on Highway 1 at Simpson Lane, just south of Highway 20, with the ground breaking on May 26 and completion by this fall.

Frisbie said the roundabout will be the second on a Mendocino County highway, with the first on Highway 175 near Hopland.

He said Caltrans first considered putting up a traffic light at Highway 1 and Simpson to help motorists on Simpson get onto the highway. At the request of Mendocino County, he said, Caltrans later studied the idea of roundabout and decided to build it.

He said the roundabout will avoid the traffic bottleneck that a stoplight can create and will reduce pollution by reducing cars’ idling time.

As for the cost, Frisbie said the planning and prep cost of $2.8 million included the design and planning time of Caltrans employees, permits and the purchase of a small piece of land.

“Smaller projects tend to have a higher percent for development costs than larger projects,” he said. “The support costs for this project are also higher because it began as just a signal project, but then we were asked to also look at a roundabout, which added to the cost. However, the savings in maintenance costs of the roundabout will quickly recover the extra money spent on developing and evaluating the roundabout option.”

Be Sociable, Share!



  1. Sadie Katz

    All that money for a roundabout–which is one of the worst inventions of all times. Why not
    a simple traffic light–which is much easier to navigate and use. I guess the owl-huggers were worried about a couple of cars sitting at a red light and idling. Get real! Roundabouts
    are tricky at best, expensive to build and not too popular with many people who are forced to
    use them. Look under the table for the money that has been passed around!

    May 18th, 2011 7:25 am

  2. Jim

    Stunning. It is amazing how much money is wasted in government projects. bet this is a prevailing wage job, where union workers are paid 100% more than they should be.

    May 18th, 2011 8:13 am

  3. Dar

    Yay for roundabouts!!! So much more effective than a signal in 90% of cases. Good work!

    May 18th, 2011 8:49 am

  4. Sam

    Wow…I can hardly wait to begin getting 300% more than the value of actual construction for the planning and preparation of that job.


    No one private would accept those terms.

    Publicly, I guess we’re less prudent.

    May 18th, 2011 9:12 am

  5. K.C

    The roundabout will avoid the traffic bottleneck that a stoplight can create and will reduce pollution by reducing cars’ idling time.

    First of, traffic lights do not create bottlenecks, they control the flow of traffic. Secondly, saving about 30 seconds of “idling time” is a good start to reducing “pollution”, but how does this constitute a 4.2 million dollar project?

    May 18th, 2011 11:32 am

  6. Old Fogey

    To be fair, stoplights cause more than the 30 seconds delay — maybe you’ve seen the ripple effect, where a stoplight causes long backups along a road that otherwise looks almost deserted? On the other hand, “planning and prep cost of $2.8 million?” The use of CalTrans employees is supposed to save money over always contracting out the engineering — and it probably does in many cases. Not so sure in this case.

    May 18th, 2011 12:38 pm

  7. Robert Tanner

    Roundabouts are FAR safer than traffic lights! According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts reduce serious injury and fatalities by 87% and other incidents by 60%. The Federal Highway Administration agrees with the insurance institute and strongly promotes roundabouts. That’s why they’re starting to appear all over.
    By reducing idling traffic, roundabouts will reduce pollution and Greenhouse gas emissions. Traffic lights are serious offenders in these regards as the wait time at a red light can be as much as a minute and a half while left-turn lights are working, creating severe bottlenecks along with pollution.
    Roundabouts, once installed, ARE cheaper to operate, as there is no power required to operate signal lights and no complex electrical equipment to maintain.
    In today’s tight budget times, that is a compelling reason right there.

    May 18th, 2011 1:06 pm

  8. paul

    upsides, downsides. a flashing yellow will save even more gas for the major traffic flow. a weight trigger could create a short cycle stop, all with solar and battery back up. traffic circles consume quite a bit as ALL vehicles must slow and speed up again, rather than a few slowing for intermittant signals.

    May 18th, 2011 2:24 pm

  9. Chris

    Wow! …planning and prep cost of $2.8 million included the design and planning time of Caltrans employees, permits and the purchase of a small piece of land….
    Well, it is official. Mendocino county is home to the stupidest people in the country. Being the most indebted County in the State it of course makes sense in this economic climate to spend money on a roundabout. Makes all the commies feel at home, kinda like Holland or France where one can find this things everywhere. Can’t believe the very granolas that oppose everything did not find an owl or grass on the land that was endangered. How much was the environ”mental” impact report? Get them Caltrans union employees of the dole. How much are you guys making right now? I know that “prevailing wage” is currently $79/hr for a carpenter and $82/hr for electricians; that is before profit or mark-up. But hey, it’s free money. 10 guys standing around and 2 leaning on a shovel. Great!!!Can’t wait to leave this looney state, and the door will not hit my —.

    May 18th, 2011 6:20 pm

  10. Bruce

    I live a mile south of it and I have to say I’m not thrilled. Part of the circle has taken a portion of the parking lot of the busiest second hand store in the area, half a dozen large trees, moved a local flea market and and caused the utility, phone and cable company’s to put all of their lines underground for several hundred yards in all directions. And Cal Trans hasn’t even started construction yet. The presence of a gas station on one corner and the Second Hand store on the other will tend to slow things up quite a bit in this little circle. It will be tight at best. I wonder how the large RV’s and 5th wheels that are numerous in the summer and fall, will navigate it when it’s crowded. Granted, the corner of Simpson and HWY 1 has had numerous tragic accidents over the years, but I think a simple stop signal would do a much better job of reducing the risk of accidents at this intersection. This is no place for an expensive experiment. Just my opinion.

    May 19th, 2011 12:07 am

  11. Phil Frisbie, Jr.

    Let me address two themes here: A simple signal would have been better, and the cost is too high.

    A ‘simple’ signal, just installing signals to the existing intersection, would have had a lower cost, but would have immediately created a massive bottleneck during times of moderate traffic. The problem with a signal is that traffic must come to a full stop, then accelerate again back to speed. To help alleviate this problem, a signal would have been built with a second lane right at the intersection for north-south traffic, but this would have actually cost MORE than the roundabout because more land would have been purchased and paved over, and wetlands would have been impacted, increasing permit costs.

    The cost: As I tried to get across in my interview, the cost to develop this project was not typical. Small projects, under $5 million, have a larger percent of development costs and the roundabout option was not on the table at the beginning of this project and was later added. Also, Caltrans does not make arbitrary decisions in developing projects; they must be backed up with data and engineering best practices. Extensive modeling was performed to determine how each signal alternative and the roundabout alternative would affect current and future projected traffic. In current traffic the roundabout handles peak traffic with fewer delays, and with the projected traffic in 20 years the best signal alternative is much worse than the roundabout.

    Signal systems have a life of about 10 years, so during the expected 20 year life of the roundabout we would spend many millions of dollars in maintenance and energy costs. When you couple this with the potential savings in lives over the next 20 years – roundabouts virtually eliminate fatal collisions – the roundabout is actually very cost effective. Feel free to contact me directly if you have comments or concerns. phil.frisbie@dot.ca.gov 707-441-4678.

    May 19th, 2011 8:56 am

  12. Ann Meadlin

    Every other place in the country is taking roundabouts out and we are just putting them in. What a waste of money.

    June 28th, 2011 9:07 am

  13. Damien Blaylock

    That intersection has been the site of many fatal accidents. Judging by some of the other comments, the only concerns are the cost of the roundabout or the delay to traffic. In that case, why not remove the stop signs, have a free-for-all intersection, and let the traffic decide? I realize that’s sarcastic, but so many people seem able to detach their brains when it comes to any form of government. Government is composed of people just like you. If you think you’re so smart, get a public job and show us how it’s done.

    September 27th, 2011 8:39 am

  14. Joe

    Have you ever seen a fully loaded log truck go around a round about or an oil tanker.

    This one is built next to a gas station. The diameter is not adequate. A huge amount of money was wasted on undergrounding of cable and electric line. Ditto large expenditures for sidewalks. Tell me how pedestrians are going to cross a round about.

    This whole project was a boondoogle by a county that is broke.

    October 1st, 2011 10:19 am

  15. Dan

    after seeing a couple 40ft tractors trailers going around and gettn hung up on the roundabout,i think it is a bad idea,plus living up simpson lane i have seen several people stopping in the middle of the roundabout confused about who has right a way.its a waste of money and will cause wrecks,a stop light would have been practial at the simpson lane hwy 1 intersevtion.

    October 1st, 2011 3:23 pm


    CalTran’s motto “Your tax dollars at work”, is nonsense. It’s ALL make work, especially this unnecessary round a bout. A light or even a 4 way stop sign would have worked…..guess CT had so much federal money they HAD to spend, and we’re the recipients of this folly.

    October 2nd, 2011 11:10 am

  17. Julie

    I drive a bus for Mendocino Transit and I love the roundabout-
    It keeps traffic moving. My bus gets through it just fine. When the trucks got stuck it was because it was only one narrow lane with cones and concrete barriers. Now it is two lanes- and if anyone gets a truck stuck, they may need to take the driving part of their test again.
    We will get use to it. Follow the signs, stay right. Go slow. Everyone is all upset because there was an accident last night- but it was a DUI- he would have crashed roundabout or light. People run lights. I say, adjust your attitudes and give it a chance. People all over the world have used them successfully for decades, its our turn to get with it.

    November 8th, 2011 7:22 pm

Submit Your Comments


Required, will not be published