Project is delayed, may get started in mid-March

Construction on a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 119 and Highway 43 (Enos Lane) was scheduled to start in early March, but it's not going to happen for several more weeks.

The project, which will take several months to complete and create significant delays or detours during peak traffic hours, will turn the intersection, currently controlled by a four-way stop light with left turn lanes, into a traffic circle where traffic will flow at reduced speeds in a counterclockwise direction, allowing traffic to continue straight or make left or right turns without stopping.

Caltrans says roundabouts can dramatically cut traffic accidents.

Quoting a National Cooperative Research Program study, Caltrans said a comparison of 55 intersections that changed from traffic signals to roundabouts had a 48 percent eduction in all accidents and a 78 percent reduction in fatal and injury accidents.

It eliminates complete stops, but traffic will be slowed to 15 to 20 miles per hour as it navigates the circle.

Opposing lanes near the circle will be divided by a splitter island leading up to it and travel around a raised island that is mounded to prevent headlights from shining through into the eyes of oncoming drivers.

According to a Caltrans email obtained by the Taft Midway Driller, no construction date has been announced and there is still environmental work to do.

The contractor, Granite Construction, has not given Caltrans a construction start date and there are surveys and relocation of an endangered species will have to take place before construction can start.

According to the email, dated Feb. 25, Caltrans biologists have submitted a plan to fence off the project area, trap any endangered Tipton Kangaroo Rats in the project area and transplant them. When the California Department of Fish and Wildlife approves the plan, a fence will be constructed around the site and biologists will monitor and trap any Kangaroo Rats in the area over a six day period (without rain), then dig out all known burrows and transplant the Kangaroo Rats inside the burrows.

Only then can construction start, and "a mid-March start date may be more realistic...," according to the email.