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Officials Hope For Smooth Transition To Roundabout
McHenry 2
Traffic back-ups like this, with traffic stacked up into Escalon and across the bridge into Stanislaus County, are what officials are hoping to reduce with the new roundabout, put in place at McHenry Avenue and River Road. Marg Jackson/The Times

After a Saturday closure for final striping work, the new – though temporary – roundabout has gone into effect at the intersection of McHenry Avenue and River Road in Escalon.

Eventually, the area is expected to get an actual traffic signal, but that isn’t anticipated until replacement of the McHenry Avenue bridge that spans the Stanislaus River and links San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

For now, the roundabout replaces the former four-way stop signs at the intersection and San Joaquin County Public Works crews were busy at the site over the last couple of weeks. First, they had to remove concrete ‘islands’ in the intersection, then installed temporary barriers in a circle design. Then came the painting work to indicate the traffic flow, and striping to guide motorists around the roundabout.

In a public forum earlier this year, the county Public Works personnel met with a handful of residents at the city’s Community Center to discuss the roundabout installation. Though many voiced concerns at the start of the session, most were in favor of trying out the traffic control device by the end of the meeting. County officials provided data that indicated roundabouts result in less time spent waiting in traffic than a four-way stop and that peak travel times see much less congestion.

The McHenry-River location has been known to have traffic backed up over the bridge during morning and afternoon ‘rush hours’ and that tie up is something county officials hope the roundabout will relieve.

“I went down there Monday morning, about 7:15 to about 7:30 a.m. and then again in the afternoon, from about 5:25 to 5:45 p.m.,” City Manager Tammy Alcantor said of the first ‘business’ day for the roundabout on April 18. “I didn’t see any stack ups then on the bridge and a few of our council members have also driven through it, they seemed positive with the effects of it.”

County officials said the pattern and flow of the roundabout will allow ample turning room for big rigs that routinely travel through the area and they don’t anticipate too much trouble with drivers getting used to the new traffic control system.

Since there was no construction involved and the roundabout is temporary, Public Works officials said they will monitor the flow and also will gauge public reaction. If, after a few months, the roundabout is not serving its intended purpose by reducing back-ups, there is always the option of returning to the four-way stop system.