Boosting Regional Economic Development in a Roundabout Way
Colfax to get its first roundabout


July 25, 2019: July 3 was a banner day for the Placer County city of Colfax. Both the Little Patriots and the Lions waved the flag during their Independence Day parades and the city celebrated the groundbreaking of its first roundabout.

When 8.3 acres of commercial real estate nestled next to I-80 and Highway 174 was proposed for development, the proximity to the highways proved to be a tricky transportation challenge. The parcels are located across from a “slip hook” type on and off ramp to I-80 which needed to be reconfigured and improved to accommodate the intersection that would lead to the new development. The City opted to design the first roundabout intersection east of Rocklin in Placer County, and it will be open by the end of the year.

The design allows near free flow for both the on and off ramp, through traffic, and access to the new development area. The project also builds sidewalks in an area that previously didn’t have any pedestrian access. Because the design increases off ramp safety and increases flow the City was able to tap into multiple state and federal funding programs to get the intersection constructed.

The alternative option was to put traffic signals on both the ramps and the new intersection but that approach was dramatically more expensive to build and would mean ongoing maintenance costs for three sets of traffic lights. It also would also decrease traffic flow, especially on the local streets as the signals would need to be prioritized for the ramps to ensure that traffic didn’t back up onto the highway.

Colfax City Manager Wes Heathcock said locals had been apprehensive about how a roundabout would work but good community engagement alleviated their concerns. He also touted the partnership with Caltrans as being vital to landing on a project that will provide both local and regional transportation benefits. The $3.7 million budget for the project was a combined effort between the City, Caltrans, Maidu Village Travel Plaza, and the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.

“The success of this project is a prime example of how important partnerships can be between agencies and our communities,” said Wes Heathcock, city manager of the City of Colfax.

Councilmember Trinity Burruss, who is also the vice chair of the Placer County Transportation Agency Board, hailed the project as money well spent.

“A small, yet significant amount of state and federal funding can go a long way to improve safety and create jobs in our Sierra town,” said Burruss. “We are grateful for the help of PCTPA and Caltrans to make this project happen.”

Caltrans Director District 3 Amarjeet Benipal said the project was “an important step toward alleviating congestion and improving safety over the next 20 years. In addition to minimizing queues and delays, the roundabout will enhance the economic viability and livability of the Auburn Street corridor.”

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