Proposed construction at the busy intersection at State Highways 26 and 49 in Mokelumne Hill has community members choosing sides and asserting opinions online.
The intersection where the two highways meet currently has a four-way stop, which Caltrans believes warrants an overhaul. Proposed alternatives to the current four-way stop include a roundabout (Alternative 1) or two-signal stop lights (Alternative 2), with the third option being to leave it as-is (Alternative 3).
According to Caltrans, “A pattern of broadside collisions has been identified at the intersection of State Route 26 and State Route 49, which are caused by motorists failing to yield.”
The proposed roundabout is estimated to cost close to $10.5 million dollars, while the traffic signal would cost about half of that, at $4.8 million.
Pros for the roundabout listed online by Caltrans include eliminating head-on and broadside collisions, more continuous flow of traffic, less noise and air pollution, and they are more pedestrian-friendly. An obvious con is the cost, as well as more difficult construction staging.
Pros listed for a traffic signal include easier construction staging, more cost-effectiveness, and ease of use as drivers are already familiar with traffic signals at intersections. A major con listed is higher through-speeds and more “conflict points” leading to more severe collisions. Other cons listed are less continuous flow of traffic, less pedestrian-friendly, and less access to businesses near the intersection.
Residents of Mokelumne Hill and surrounding areas have been weighing in online with opinions about the necessity of the project and which option is best.
In a Facebook poll posted in a Mokelumne Hill community group, the majority of votes were for leaving the intersection as-is, at 103 votes. The next highest response, at 32 votes, was in favor of a roundabout, and only six votes went to the signal option. Several community members submitted their own suggestions, including decreasing the speed limits through the intersection, adding rumble strips, flashing lights, or making stops required one way, with cross-traffic required to yield. Two votes went to the proposal to “pay attention and drive.”
The intersection at Highways 26 and 49 has long been a subject of concern for the community. Stop signs were added in 2019 in hopes of slowing down traffic and preventing collisions in the area, evidently without achieving that goal.
Comments criticized the steep budget for the new project, with one commenter saying it “seems like a waste of millions of dollars.”
One Facebook user rebutted, “They are doing this because there are still serious accidents at that intersection. The four-way stop has been determined to be a failure. Caltrans has options to save lives… and with their expertise, these are the best options.”
Other commenters voiced the opinion that if drivers won’t stop or yield properly at a stop sign, they aren’t likely to follow traffic laws with a stop light or roundabout, either.
Still, more are in favor of the roundabouts, which force drivers to slow without completely stopping traffic.
Caltrans held a virtual “open house” and “live” meeting about the proposed changes on Sept. 28 to garner community opinions and input about the project.
The website for the project allows community members to submit an online survey and voice their opinions and concerns regarding the proposed project, which is still in the very early stages of planning.
A tentative schedule provided by Caltrans estimates project completion by November of 2025. A presentation and the survey for the Highway 26/49 Intersection Control Improvement Project can be viewed online at: https://deavpm.wixsite.com/hwy26intersection
Email comments directly to: Jaycee.Azevedo@dot.ca.gov or Mail to: Jaycee Azevedo, Senior Environmental Planner California Department of Transportation 1976 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd Stockton, Calif. 95205.
Caltrans notes that survey responses and comments must be received by Oct. 30.