Intersection could be open as soon as late October

Construction is continuing on the roundabout at Highway 119 and Highway 43 as work starts on another one several miles to the north.

After delays from endangered species issues in May, the project is on schedule and should be completed on schedule on November or even possibly late October, according to Caltrans officials.

he local roundabout is part of a growing trend around the state targeting accident-prone and congested four-way intersections.

Construction on another roundabout at Highway 43 and Stockdale Highway started in the past week. More are planned in Kern County by Caltrans, and the San Luis Obispo County Council of Governments is planning as many as seven both in urban and rural areas

Project Manager Paul Pineda discussed the concept and the Highway 119 project recently at the Taft Chamber of Commerce's weekly Sit n' Sip.

"Mainly it's safety, Pineda said. "It reduces both the number of accidents and the severity."

Citing statistics from roundabouts already installed, he said they result in a 35 percent drop in total accidents, 76 percent drop in injury accident and a 90 percent drop in fatal accidents compared to two-way and four-way stops and all traffic signals.

The roundabout moves traffic in a circular motion, eliminating head-on and broadside collisions, the most dangerous, he said.

The Highway 119-43 intersection tends to get congested with long lines for eastbound traffic on 119 in the afternoon and westbound 119 and southbound 43 in the morning.

When the roundabout is completed, the traffic heading southbound on 43 will have its own lane to turn onto westbound 119, Pineda said.

"Basically you can do a 'California roll' through the stop," he said.

Pineda said there may be a few issues when the roundabout opens as drivers get used to it.

"There is going to be a learning curve. We understand that," he said.

Currently the northern half of the roundabout is under construction with traffic halted on Highway 43 south of the Kern County Raceway.

When that is completed, work will start on the southern half.