The Sutter County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to table a vote on entering a cooperative agreement with Caltrans for an intersection improvement project on Highway 99 at Oswald Road.

As part of the agreement, the county would agree to provide $1.5 million toward the cost of construction improvements for the intersection. The county has been working with Caltrans since 2018 on improving the intersection. This summer, the board held a study session over the impacts of either installing a roundabout or a traffic signal at the intersection, according to Senior Civil Engineer David Tomm with the Development Services Department.

During the board meeting, Tomm presented a video of an example of how the roundabout would work with semi trucks passing through it. Staff set up a demonstration of the proposed roundabout in the parking lot of the old Kmart building and used a drone camera to capture trucks passing through at different directions and speeds. Tomm said the roundabout will have two lanes on each side. He said the recent infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden changed the federal code and made roundabouts a safety project alternative, opening the door for safety funding from the government to go toward the project. The county’s share of construction costs would be the same if it opts for a roundabout or a traffic signal. Tomm said a roundabout is a safer option because it lessens the chances for T-bone fatal accidents. He said accidents in roundabouts happen at divergent angles at slower speeds. The curve of the roundabout will not be negotiable at 65 miles per hour meaning vehicles will have to slow down to maneuver through it.

Supervisor Mat Conant asked if California Highway Patrol had looked over the roundabout design and questioned whether trucks larger than those from the demonstration would be able to make it through safely while carrying a load and driving alongside smaller cars. Supervisor Karm Bains said he watched the demonstration at Kmart in person and said the video did not include some of the times the trucks ran over cones. He made a motion to table the vote to the next board meeting to allow more time for another demonstration to be done that includes more factors and to gather input from CHP, the community and trucking industry.

Tomm said if the board prefers a traffic signal over a roundabout, it should provide that direction to staff sooner rather than later. He said staff and a consultant will be working on documents for the next year or so with a roundabout as the preferred option. If the board were to wait and then request a traffic signal, the consultant would have to pay to complete the required design documents for a traffic signal.

Six members of the public commented on the item during the meeting. One resident said he did not have an opinion on what option the board should choose but that something needs to be done at the intersection. Others questioned the design of the roundabout depicted in the video and voiced concerns about how drivers unfamiliar with a roundabout could cause accidents.

Development Services Director Neal Hay addressed some of the public’s comments saying he has seen cars and trucks navigate roundabouts without crashes occurring and said the county “is not married” to the roundabout. He said the Caltrans expert on roundabouts was at the recent demonstration and said it would be difficult to replicate all the real-world scenarios in a demonstration. He said the consulting firm the county is working with had designed 85 percent of the roundabouts in California at the time of hiring the consultant. The county would have to acquire property to install the roundabout. Hay said the plan from Caltrans is to have construction of the project take place in 2024-25.

Supervisor Mike Ziegenmeyer said businesses in the area of the intersection should be involved in the process and the board voted 5-0 to table the vote to the Dec. 7 meeting.

 

In other business:

– The board directed staff to prepare an ordinance reflecting its preference for one of the map options presented during a public hearing on Tuesday regarding the redistricting process. Sutter County’s population grew from 94,737 in 2010 to 99,683 in 2020 -- a 5 percent growth over a 10-year period, according to Clerk-Recorder Donna Johnston. She said the population deviation among the five supervisorial districts remained within the legal standard, so in theory districts could remain the same. However, she said by law the county has to consider redrawing lines and take public input into consideration.

Johnston presented five map options previously presented to the board along with five new options that were submitted by the public through an online map drawing tool. Board members said they thought “Option 9” was the best option as it had a population deviation of 3 percent and made sure each district touched a part of the levee. In addition, District 4 in Option 9 added a part of the county instead of including just a portion of Yuba City. Three members of the public also voiced support for Option 9 during the hearing.

“We should put it as the frontrunner,” Ziegenmeyer said.

With a consensus from the board, Supervisor Dan Flores directed staff to prepare an ordinance reflecting the board’s support of Option 9 that is scheduled to be introduced at the next meeting. To see map options and to submit maps, visit suttercounty.org/redistricting.

– The board unanimously approved adjustments to the fiscal year 2021/22 adopted budget to allow the county to submit the final budget to the State Controller’s Office. The available fund balance for the general fund was $5,608,393 higher than what was included in the adopted budget, so staff recommended adjustments for use of the net additional available fund balance, according to Assistant County Administrator Leanne Link.

The county had until Dec. 1 to submit the adopted budget to the state.

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