A town hall meeting to provide information on planned improvement projects at State Route 43 and Whitley Ave. was held Monday afternoon. The session was scheduled in response to a fatal accident at the intersection, which recently took the life of a Corcoran five-year-old.
On hand were Supervisor Richard Valle, who helped facilitate the meeting with local Councilman Ray Lerma; John Liu of Cal Trans, and representatives from the county public works department, California Highway Patrol and Corcoran Police Department.
Liu presented an update regarding a planned roundabout at the intersection, which could begin construction as early as this fall. He noted the project has taken years to develop and should receive final funding approval next month. This will be the second roundabout constructed in District 6, of which Liu is deputy director.
The roundabout creates a traffic pattern that slows vehicles, requiring a counter-clockwise pattern for travel at the intersection. Liu said the design has proven to be a safety factor in vehicle accidents, almost eliminating broadside as well as head-on collisions. Roundabouts are also pedestrian friendly and add to bicycle safety at the intersection, said Liu.
Residents concerned about temporary safety measures have indicated on social media they would like to see a four-way stop put in place as a temporary fix. Liu said that could probably be accommodated; however, the four-way stop may present problems of its own.
“People who are unaccustomed to a four-way stop at that intersection could blow through that stop sign,” he warned.
With the majority of respondents noting they would like the temporary four-way stop, Liu explained that northbound and southbound traffic on State Route 43 will see digital displays reading “stop ahead” with flashing yellow LED lights to augment the caution. Approaching the stop sign, drivers will see red flashing LED lights.
Liu said ultimately the roundabout is the safest fix for the intersection.
“It calms traffic and slows things down,” he said.
Several roundabouts are planned throughout the district, including one at Lacey and State Route 43 in Hanford.The intersection will actually be moved further north to accommodate construction of a new Costco in that area. Of the proposed 20 roundabouts scheduled for District 6, Woodlake and Farmersville are also on the list for construction.
Lt. David Knoff of the California Highway Patrol said his office is willing to assist at the intersection, providing additional patrols in the area while the temporary four-way stop is in place.
“We also concur that the roundabout is the best solution for the intersection” he stated.
Chief of Police Reuben Shortnacy said there have been 26 collisions at the intersection in the past five years, with only one fatality. The vast majority of accidents have been caused by right-of-way violations, when a motorist stops before crossing 43, then proceeds across the intersection in front of oncoming traffic.
Liu did not give a timeline in which the temporary stop could be put in place, but it is anticipated before the fall of this year.