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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.”

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