Susan Mora and her family plan trips to avoid rush hour and other busy times at the interchange of Highway 99 and Twin Cities Road. Their main concern is getting out of their driveway, which exits onto Twin Cities.
While people will usually let them in, Mora's biggest concern is what would happen if her family had an emergency.
"It can back up clear to the railroad tracks," she said.
Mora attended a meeting Monday night with about 40 other residents to hear about possible designs that would alleviate some of the traffic problems at the interchange.
City staff is recommending the installation of two roundabouts on Twin Cities, one on each side of the highway. The traffic signals would be eliminated, and motorists would yield as they enter the roundabouts.
The city is still in the design phase of the $5 million project. The California Department of Transportation has already guaranteed $1 million from gasoline tax funds, and the city will use development and capital improvement funds to cover the remaining $4 million.
Construction is scheduled to begin in April 2012 with the project completed by March 2013.
The project is a temporary fix for the intersection, where traffic can back up in all directions at rush hour. Using the roundabouts would not require expanding the overpass, which would cost significantly more and require years of study.
"We are not saying this is perfect, but we are trying to find a solution," Public Works Director Gregg Halladay said.
Residents at the meeting had concerns about safety, traffic flow, seniors using the roundabouts and whether large farming equipment that takes up both lanes of the overpass will be able to navigate them.
When Ted Horning heard about the idea of roundabouts on Twin Cities Road, he wasn't sure whether it would help. He owns Horning Equipment Corporation at the corner of Twin Cities and the entrance ramp for northbound Highway 99, and he often watches motorists get into accidents or get run off the road into the ditch.
After driving to Elk Grove to see the roundabouts there, he believes adding two of them will keep traffic moving and prevent some of the backups.
"I've seen how it works as opposed to what is there right now," Horning said. "Nothing is perfect."
As a retired truck driver, Fred Irons was concerned about accidents from cars entering a truck driver's blind spot.
But after attending the meeting, he said most of his concerns had been alleviated after talking with the city staff and consultants.
"I was terribly afraid they had tunnel vision and came up with the idea and planned to go through with it. … But I think we gave them enough concerns, and they will come up with adjustments," he said.
The city hired the engineering and planning firm Omni Means to design the intersection. Mark Johnson with MTJ Engineering, is also working on the project. He specializes in roundabouts and has done projects throughout the country, where he often hears concerns from residents. But once they are installed, people tend to like them, he said.
"It is difficult to comprehend how it will work and if it will work," Johnson said.
The main advantage to roundabouts is they keep traffic moving while also slowing it down, so the accidents are less severe than a traditional intersection, where traffic can be moving at high speeds, Johnson said.
The project will accommodate future development in the area but is independent of any specific project, including the proposed Walmart at Twin Cities and Fermoy Way, said Ronald Boyle of Omni Means.
Boyle estimated the Average Daily Trips at the interchange would go from 10,500 now to 17,800 in 2023.
Resident Cliff Laughlin has concerns that the city is pushing through the project because it plans to approve Walmart and Delta Greens, a contentious senior living development that has been proposed off of Twin Cities. He also is concerned that the city is spending $5 million now on a project that will have to be torn up when the overpass is complete.
"It's $5 million for a short-term patch, and short-term might be five to 10 years. If it is done, my concern is it is done right," Laughlin said.