February 22, 2018
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RP attempting to alleviate traffic woes

  • On and off ramp traffic signals are one of the things that the City of Rohnert Park would like to improve in an effort to help solve the city's traffic woes by better coordinating metering lights with city street signals. Robert Grant.

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
February 2, 2018

Residents of Rohnert Park have undoubtedly noticed increased traffic congestion throughout the city, as much needed housing is being built and our population is increasing. Indeed, this has been an issue addressed not only on the city level, but county-wide as well, providing the impetus for the SMART train, freeway expansion and other traffic mitigation solutions. The City of Rohnert Park has been working on several approaches to ease traffic flow within town – both for our immediate needs as well as to accommodate future growth.

To relieve congestion at freeway intersections at Rohnert Park Expressway and Golf Course Drive, the city is working with Cal Trans to improve the timing, having them work in conjunction with the traffic lights the city operates. These areas tend to get backed up, especially at peak traffic times. The city is currently in process of conducting a traffic study and expects the timing improvements to be completed by April. 

“The traffic signals at the on and off ramps at Golf Course Drive and Rohnert Park Expressway don’t belong to the City of Rohnert Park, they actually belong to Cal Trans,” says Mary Grace Pawson, Director of Development Services for the City of Rohnert Park. “The timing of those signals is under Cal Trans’ control. We are working on a grant funded project with Cal Trans right now to do some traffic studies and eventually timing of their signals so they operate in better coordination with the city signals. We believe that’s critical to helping alleviate congestion because our signal timing can be perfect but if it’s perfectly off the Cal Trans timing signal people get stopped anyhow.”

The city is also in the process of improving the timing of its own traffic signals on Rohnert Park Expressway and Golf Course Drive through an improved computer system. Currently the signals work on a system with pre-programmed times that are inflexible and are proving to be inadequate to the actual traffic situation on these roads. Instead, they hope to implement a system that will actually monitor real time traffic flow and adjust accordingly. 

“The computerized system that we’re purchasing will sense if its not clearing the queue in an intersection on its program,” explains Pawson. “It will selectively lengthen the cycle to get intersections cleared, and then adjust itself back when it no longer senses that problem. It’s called adaptive control.”

The city is currently finalizing the request for proposal for the computerized system. They will then make the vendor selection and hope to have the work completed this summer. Part of this year’s city budget has already been earmarked to fund the system, and most likely some funding will be in next year’s budget as well to get this work completed promptly. 

Several roads in the city have already been widened or reconfigured to improve traffic flow and some of this work will continue this year. In the last two years roads were widened on Rohnert Park Expressway to accommodate increased traffic by the new development near Sonoma State, as well as on Snyder Lane near Rancho Cotate High School, making the previously two-lane road into a four-lane road. This summer a complete reconstruction of Keiser Avenue between Snyder and Petaluma Hill Road will begin.

“That roadway really services the northern portion of the University District,” says Pawson. “That development moved east last year and will be moving north next year so we’re working to make sure the infrastructure keeps up with the housing construction.”

Another project scheduled for this summer is a reconfiguration of the intersection at Golf Course Drive and Redwood Drive, near the Oxford Suites / Amy’s neighborhood. Currently the left turn from Golf Course onto Redwood drive becomes very impacted during peak times. The city plans to create more left turn capacity with adding an additional left turn lane, as well as altering the signal timing. 

Lastly, Rohnert Park is considering adding roundabouts to address traffic flow in various parts of the city. At the Jan. 23 city council meeting, a report was presented to the city council with the results of the analysis performed by Omni Means, a traffic consulting company. The study examined 14 intersections in five major corridors of the city, particularly looking at the feasibility of adding roundabouts to improve intersection efficiency, reduce the need for roadway widening, and reduce the number and severity of collisions. 

Through modeling and analysis, it was determined that roundabouts are the preferred traffic solution at the intersection of Southwest and Commerce, which is very much like a roundabout already, as well as the intersection of Commerce at State Farm Drive. Four of the intersections studied were deemed not suitable for roundabouts, and the last six were recommended to examine further. Funding for adding roundabouts is already included in this fiscal year’s budget, and will be in next year’s budget as well. 

“That kind of conversion is one that we want to take our time, with some predesign and community outreach,” says Pawson. “A roundabout is a change for drivers so that will probably be in construction in the summer of 2019.”